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Lead the Way: Inclusive Business Culture

Establishing a disability-inclusive workplace culture requires commitment across the organization. Learn about strategies for including people with disabilities in your organizations diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility (DEIA) initiatives and plans. 

Commitment at all levels of an organization is critical to creating and maintaining a diverse and inclusive work environment. Establishing an inclusive business culture begins with leadership at the highest levels, including top executives and boards of directors. Managers and supervisors, and particularly human resources staff and other personnel involved in hiring decisions, must also understand the role they play in facilitating an inclusive environment.

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Establishing an inclusive business culture begins with leadership, but communicating the goal of an inclusive workplace to all employees—and indicating what they can do to help—is also important. One action company leaders can take is to adopt formal expressions of commitment and intent related to the recruitment, hiring, retention and advancement of people with disabilities, including veterans with disabilities. Successful approaches used by both large and small employers include:

  1. Making equal employment opportunity for people with disabilities an integral part of the company’s strategic mission.
  2. Implementing a comprehensive, continual series of equal employment opportunity initiatives and building a related infrastructure, with leadership as the catalyst.
  3. Developing and communicating policy statements and other illustrations of the company’s commitment to disability diversity and inclusion. Policy statements may:
    • Affirm the company’s commitment to equal employment opportunity for qualified people with disabilities and taking affirmative steps to recruit, hire, retain and advance them at all levels;
    • Provide for an audit and reporting system of efforts to attain equal employment opportunity and eliminate discrimination;
    • Assign responsibility for ensuring disability inclusion and diversity to a person or office for implementation;
    • Express commitment to recruit, hire, retain and advance persons with disabilities at all levels;
    • Ensure all personnel actions are free from bias and are administered without regard to disability and all employment decisions are based solely on valid job requirements; and
    • State that employees and applicants with disabilities will not be subjected to harassment, intimidation, threats, coercion or discrimination because they have engaged in activities such as filing a complaint or participating or assisting in an investigation into one.
  4. Establishing an enterprise-wide team consisting of executives, managers and employees with disabilities to support and advance the recruiting, hiring, retention and advancement of people with disabilities. This team may also function as a disability-focused employee resource group (ERG) or affinity group.
  5. Distributing an equal employment opportunity policy statement to all employees by prominently posting the policy statement in human resources offices and sharing it through all available internal and external channels, including online platforms (for example, distributing reasonable accommodation procedures to managers, supervisors and other personnel responsible for processing reasonable accommodation requests).
  6. Seeking input (for example, using employee surveys, focus groups, discussions and ERG or affinity groups) regarding the existence of an accessible and disability-inclusive workplace environment.
  7. Including disability within the company’s diversity and inclusion policies and activities. This strategy includes using the words “disability” and “people with disabilities” in statements defining the company’s diversity and inclusion policies, inviting disability organizations and people with disabilities to the company’s diversity and inclusion events, and recognizing that talent with disabilities are part of the company’s other diverse communities (including racial and ethnic minorities, veterans and the LGBTQ+ community).
  8. Encouraging workers with disabilities and other employees to identify barriers and individual and systemic concerns without fear of reprisal, and also providing mechanisms to allow them to provide this information anonymously or confidentially.
  9. Establishing a universal policy providing workplace flexibility and accommodations for all applicants and employees, with and without disabilities, including using telework and flextime options, if appropriate.
  10. Implementing work-life programs and initiatives to help employees balance work and non-work responsibilities.
  11. Developing emergency preparedness and management plans that specifically address the needs of employees with disabilities. In addition to providing practical guidelines for emergency managers and employees, such plans should address communication and distribution, employer and first responder responsibilities, employee self-determination and emergency notification channels.

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