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Disability Inclusion in the Workplace: Why It Matters

Learn about the importance of including people with disabilities in company DEIA plans and efforts.

If you're an employer new to understanding the role disability plays in workplace diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA), you may be looking for guidance and background on the what, why, and how of making your organization more welcoming and accessible to applicants and employees with disabilities. 

Consider this your starting point for understanding how hiring workers with disabilities can benefit your business and increase workplace diversity–and how EARN can help.

EARN is on a mission to help employers weave disability into their DEIA plans and efforts. Why? Because people with disabilities are the largest minority group in the world, and recruiting, hiring, retaining, and advancing workers with disabilities is good for America and good for business. If people with disabilities are not included in your organization's DEIA plan, then your plan is incomplete. 

Employers everywhere are learning that businesses inclusive of people with disabilities, including veterans with disabilities, benefit from a wider pool of talent, skills, and creative business solutions. They’re also recognizing disability diversity as an important way to tap into a growing market, since people with disabilities represent the third largest market segment in the United States. So, by proactively employing people with disabilities, businesses can gain a better understanding of how to meet the needs of this important and expanding customer base.

What does it mean to be disability-inclusive?

There are numerous characteristics associated with disability-inclusive organizations. What is often surprising to employers is that most inclusion practices geared toward employees and job seekers with disabilities have the added bonus of benefiting everyone. Learn more about ensuring your organization's DEIA plan includes people with disabilities.

Building a representative workforce includes appropriately identifying talent, using multiple methods to announce vacancies, supporting a pipeline of new members of the workforce, mitigating bias in the promotion process, and addressing any potential barriers in accessing job opportunities.

Ensuring consistent and systemic fair, just, and impartial treatment of all employees includes creating equal opportunities for career advancement, mitigating barriers to professional development and promotion, and advancing access to workplace services and supports.

Ensuring that all employees feel supported and welcomed includes providing opportunities for growth, strengthening feedback loops for employee input, and cultivating a psychologically safe workplace culture.

Designing facilities, technology, programs, and services so all employees can use them fully and independently includes engaging proactively with users, reviewing existing and forthcoming accessibility guidance, making timely updates, and bringing together relevant stakeholders when making decisions affecting accessibility.

Disability Inclusion Steps to Success

Foster an INCLUSIVE BUSINESS CULTURE, starting with expressions of commitment to your DEIA plans from the highest levels and carried across an organization wide through practices such as disability-focused employee resource groups and engagement activities.

Ensure disability-inclusive OUTREACH AND RECRUITMENT by developing relationships with a variety of recruitment sources in order to build a pipeline of qualified candidates with disabilities for the future.

Ensure disability-inclusive TALENT ACQUISITION AND RETENTION PROCESSES by establishing personnel systems and job descriptions that facilitate not only the hiring but also advancement of people with disabilities.

Provide the ACCOMMODATIONS employees with disabilities may need to do their jobs effectively, whether that means assistive technology, a flexible schedule or numerous other reasonable accommodations or productivity enhancements.

Implement methods for effectively COMMUNICATING YOUR ORGANIZATION'S POLICIES AND PRACTICES internally and externally to demonstrate your commitment to disability inclusion, as well as provide training on disability-related workplace issues to staff.

Ensure a barrier-free workplace by maintaining ACCESSIBLE INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGY, and take steps to make sure your workplace is physically and digitally accessible and inclusive and welcoming of people with disabilities.

Implement ACCOUNTABILITY AND SELF-IDENTIFICATION MEASURES by adopting written policies, practices, and procedures and tracking their effectiveness in order to identify areas for improvement.

Frequently Asked Questions about Workplace Disability Inclusion

The answer is as diverse as the skillsets of any other candidates. People with disabilities may also offer employers a competitive edge, helping diversify and strengthen their workplaces through varied perspectives on how to confront challenges and get the job done. They bring creativity, innovation, problem solving, and commitment to the workplace. Studies have shown that employees with disabilities stay at jobs longer, thus reducing the time and cost involved in retraining and replacing personnel.

Other benefits reported by businesses include improvement in productivity and morale and increased workplace diversity. And these benefits can have a real impact on a company’s bottom line. In October 2018, Accenture, in partnership with the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) and Disability:IN, released “Getting To Equal: The Disability Inclusion Advantage (PDF),” a report that revealed that companies that embrace best practices for employing and supporting people with disabilities in their workforces consistently outperform their peers, including having, on average, 28% higher revenue, double the net income, and 30% higher economic profit margins.

EARN assists employers by providing educational resources such as fact sheets, checklists, policy briefs, guides, and webinars. You can also visit EARN’s Dinah Cohen Learning Center for resources such as the Mental Health Toolkit, Neurodiversity in the Workplace webpage and online training courses about the Inclusion@Work Framework for Building a Disability-Inclusive Organization and other topics. Subscribe to EARN’s newsletter to stay up-to-date on upcoming events, developing news, and promising practices related to disability diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility.

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