Over 16% of the world’s population are people who live with some form of disability and this number is on the rise, due to a longer life expectancy and global aging. Therefore, addressing the needs of people with disabilities is key. In the words of Caroline Casey, Founder and Director of The Valuable 500, “Having an inclusive society that benefits everyone needs to shift from being an ideal into a fully-fledged reality”.
Even though diversity and inclusion are being increasingly discussed and even ingrained into all areas of business around the world, many companies still remain solely focused on gender equality. In fact, a study has found that despite 90% of companies claiming to “prioritise diversity” only shy of 4% actually consider disability.
It seems as though disability is caught under a “cloak of invisibility”.
On the other hand, evidence points to the fact that hiring a diverse workforce and focusing on disability inclusion benefits not only people with disabilities and our communities, but it’s also good for business. For instance, a 2020 Accenture study found that businesses that focus on disability inclusion grow their sales 2.9 times faster, and their profits 4.1 times faster than other companies.
Disability inclusion is also a selling point and key to attractiveness for several stakeholders, including talent, investors, and, of course, consumers, who are increasingly demanding when it comes to companies’ role in diversity and inclusion.
As diversity and inclusion are increasingly recognised as valuable instruments for value creation in business and society overall, business leaders are now more open to devoting resources to inclusion measures, reviewing their people strategies, and ingraining DEI across the value chain.
Because we’re here to support this movement and its momentum, in this article we are sharing 3 best practices your company can use to build its disability inclusion strategy.
Many people with disabilities do not get access to equal opportunities throughout their journeys which includes getting an education and access to capacity building. Companies can create these opportunities for people with disabilities by providing open-source training, workshops, and modules. This can be done before recruitment as a way to prepare applicants to match the skills needed in the business world and to allow them to excel in their careers.
Jerónimo Martins Group, a Portuguese retail company, for example, developed Centro Incluir a skill-building centre designed to integrate and include people with all types of disabilities (physical, sensory, or cognitive).
2) Accessibility across the value chain
In the workplace accessibility and disability inclusion should not just stop at the HR department with sourcing and recruitment. It must go beyond these stages of the employee lifecycle to generate valuable change and to ensure an inclusive environment for all. But that’s not all. Accessibility should be a core value of the company and be ingrained across the value chain, ranging from suppliers to employees, and extend all the way to customers.
The hospitality company Gleneagle Group, for instance, partnered with Universal Access® to embed the Accessibility and Disability Inclusion FrameworkTM across every functional area of their organisation. They developed an access policy and an access user guide for their current infrastructure and processes with accurate information which is updated regularly. They also periodically audit their spaces to ensure accessibility for all visitors, guests, and staff.
3) Creating an inclusive workplace
Disability inclusion is an ongoing process of learning and adapting your infrastructures but also your practices in order to promote an inclusive environment. This is also important to create harmony between disabled and non-disabled employees and give them maximum space to complement each other’s abilities and skill sets.
One such example is Google, which takes its commitment to disability inclusion very seriously, fostering this environment from recruitment onwards. Google published a career site showcasing resources on applying for jobs for people with all types of disabilities. This website was quickly followed by providing Disability Fundamentals for Managers, a free open-source training to learn about disability. Google also has an employee resource group (ERG) called Google’s Disability Alliance – a community where employees can advocate, build awareness, and share advice around disability, with the aim of creating innovative and inclusive teams and products.
The corporate world and people with disabilities need one another because, in a world where people come from diverse backgrounds, inclusion becomes a medium for opportunities and impact.