AskEARN | Disability and Diversity at Work Skip to main content

Disability and Diversity at Work

A person’s identity may include many other factors in addition to their disability status. Check out these tips for employers on disability and diversity and supporting multiply marginalized employees.

Diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) efforts sometimes focus on just one facet of identity, such as race or gender, but diversity includes many factors. As employers seek to increase diversity in their organizations, they should remember that workers may be part of more than one marginalized group.

An Introduction to Intersectionality in the Workplace

Every person identifies themselves in multiple ways, and as such, should not be reduced to a singular defining characteristic. A person’s identity may include, for instance, their race, age, ethnicity, or gender, as well as LGBTQI+, economic, and disability status. Each identity can lead to differences in a person’s lived experience. People from underserved communities often experience bias, prejudice, and discrimination based on those identities.

A person can have more than one marginalized identity. Some examples of people who are “multiply marginalized” include Black and Hispanic people with disabilities, disabled transgender people of any race, and immigrants with disabilities. People with more than one marginalized identity can experience increased bias and discrimination where these identities “intersect.” For example, a Black person with a disability may experience bias and discrimination in different ways than a disabled Hispanic or White person, in the same way a woman with a disability may experience different discrimination than a man with the same disability.

Diversity in Disability

There is tremendous diversity among people with disabilities. In fact, the prevalence of disability is higher within many marginalized communities. In addition, a person’s perception of their disability and their daily interactions are significantly shaped by the intersections of disability and their other identities. Employers should consider all their workers’ identities and how diversity may benefit the workplace.

Tips for Organizations

  • Typically, when employee benefit and support programs, such as flexible leave programs or childcare programs, work for the most marginalized employees, they work for everyone. 
  • Learn to correctly pronounce and spell all employees’ names. Different cultures and pronunciations do not create a pass for others to shorten or change an employee’s name. 
  • Use a coworker’s preferred language and terminology, including pronouns. Remember, these may differ, even between members of the same group.
  • Seek to learn more about diversity topics, but do not rely only on employees from marginalized groups to serve as educators for other employees.
  • Encourage collaboration between Employee Resource Groups to gain perspectives from different groups of employees.

To learn more, read Intersectionality in the Workplace.

Related Resources

Related Content

inclusive culture