Disability Diversity in the Workplace: Why it Matters

Disability Diversity in the Workplace: Why it Matters

Most business leaders are familiar with diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) as part of the conversations around racial and gender equity, sexual orientation, and cultural differences. However, one group is often overlooked or relegated to a footnote in conversations about workplace diversity and inclusion initiatives: people with disabilities. 

DEIB efforts are at the forefront of business topics today more than ever before. More businesses are recognizing that action needs to be taken to be more inclusive in attracting, hiring, and promoting a diverse workforce. Especially with remote work becoming the norm for many companies, there are more possibilities now than ever before, for inclusive hiring and work conditions.

If your company is committed to becoming a more inclusive workplace it means being inclusive of all aspects of DEIB. Here are some benefits to an inclusive workplace and how you can create an environment that is mindful of the needs of persons with disabilities.



In a report from the Return On Disability Group, it was uncovered that of the 90% of companies surveyed who claimed to prioritize diversity, only 4% considered disability in those initiatives. 

A major push for societal and corporate changes is currently having an impact in the business world. The importance of DEIB has been amplified in recent years, and many business leaders are looking to develop plans, processes, procedures that will help them create a successful DEIB strategy. Comprehensive DEIB efforts offer companies access to a greater range of talent, which can serve to expand workforce diversity and inclusion, increase business success, and provide a leg up over others competing for the same talent.


People With Disabilities

According to the World Health Organization, there are more than one billion people worldwide, or roughly 15% of the world’s population, living with a disability. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the participation rate of people with disabilities in the workplace is 20.6%, compared to 68.6% for those without disabilities. Though often excluded from the traditional mix of a diverse workforce, people with disabilities are an untapped market that can benefit companies and strengthen their workforce.

The Department of Labor found that employers who included people with disabilities in their DEI initiatives saw a 90% increase in employee retention. Also, according to a recent Accenture study, (in collaboration with Disability:IN and the American Association of People with Disabilities), businesses that actively seek to employ people with disabilities typically outperform businesses that do not. Businesses that hired people with disabilities increased their revenues by 28% and their profit margins by 30%.


How To Hire, Manage, and Create Inclusive Environments 

Although developing practices that are inclusive is a great goal, implementation of the practices takes considerable time and effort. To make sure your business is dedicated to the DEIB process, use the following five steps to move toward creating an inclusive environment:


1. Review Your Current Hiring Process

To find and hire people with disabilities, take a look at any existing barriers that may prevent folks from this group from even applying with your organization. Review your application process and make sure applicants have the accessibility to apply online for your open positions. Also, take a hard look at your job descriptions. Many job descriptions do not use inclusive language and are actually designed to weed out anyone with a disability -- so be sure your description involves inclusiatiory terms to make your communication welcoming to any audience.

For example, does the job really require the ability to lift 30 pounds? Does the candidate really have to sit for long periods of time? Does the job really require that the candidate have a driver’s license, 45 wpm typing skills, or any other physical demands? 

It’s also important to review your interviewing policies to ensure that the line of questioning does not have built-in biases designed to prevent someone with a disability from advancing further in the hiring process. Unfortunately, these biases can creep into the hiring decision-making process and cloud the judgment of the interviewer.

One solution is to stay focused and on-point about the skills, knowledge, and talent required for that particular position. Your company can also incorporate a diverse panel into the interview process, ensuring that the hiring team will be less likely influenced by unconscious biases.


2. Partner With Community Organizations

Staying in tune with your organization’s DEIB initiatives while finding qualified candidates for the company’s open positions is always a challenge. But having the ability to hire people with disabilities enlarges the pool of qualified candidates and increases the chances of bringing more talented workers into the fold. To find people with disabilities to hire, consider partnering with agencies that provide care, therapy, or resources for people with disabilities. 


3. Generate Awareness With Your Employer Brand

Starting a DEIB committee, or reaching out to your current DEIB committee, to discuss resources and support for workers who are disabled can help generate awareness. Many companies now celebrate National Disability Employment Awareness Month and use that time period to bring in guest speakers and experts to share their knowledge and experiences. 

Also, make sure your employer branding and messaging reflect your DEIB efforts. This can include sharing videos or stories of current employees who have disabilities and testimonials from team members across the company.


4. Broaden the Search Process With Inclusive Job Boards

Instead of using the standard job boards to find candidates that are disabled, consider broadening your scope. Some job boards where people with disabilities can be found include:


5. Train For Inclusiveness

The best way for an employer to ensure inclusion for people with disabilities is to take the following steps:

  • Train all managers and supervisors: Ensure that everyone in a leadership role is equipped to respond to questions and concerns for all employees regarding the hiring and inclusion of people with disabilities.
  • Train all employees: Train employees on disability etiquette and their rights for accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Include role-play exercises and table talks to drive home the importance of inclusion.
  • Review the recruiting and application process: Make sure job postings are posted in formats accessible to candidates with disabilities, and post job openings where people with disabilities can be found.
  • Provide soft skills training: Train individuals with disabilities so they understand all aspects of how to be successful at work. Give them the tools they can use to adapt to the work culture.
  • Use various modes of training: A blend of interactive instructor-led training along with hands-on training is ideal for learners with disabilities.


The Power Of Inclusion

True inclusion is about embracing difference, and it’s important for organizations to increase their awareness of people with disabilities. Business leaders may not even be aware they’ve already employed people with disabilities -- known as invisible disabilities. Also, many companies might miss out on the wide range of talents, perspectives, and abilities that people with disabilities bring to work environments.

Having a focus on diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging is going to be essential for companies to remain competitive and hire the best talent. Education, awareness, and a deliberate effort to change or update current hiring processes to include people with disabilities will help any employer to be successful with their DEIB strategies, which will ensure positive and lasting change.



Are you looking to succeed with your DEIB strategies, but don't know where to start? We'd love to help!

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