Expressing commitment to a diverse workplace welcoming of the skills and talents of people with disabilities, both internally and externally, is one of the easiest ways to foster a disability-inclusive culture. Examples include equal opportunity statements that specifically mention disability on company websites, statements by top company leaders, advertisements featuring people with disabilities, articles in employee newsletters about disability-related issues and more. Successful approaches large and small employers have used in this area include the following:
- Developing and communicating policy statements and other illustrations of the company’s commitment to inclusion of workers with disabilities. (For example, “Business is becoming increasingly global. As [COMPANY NAME] continues to expand, our differences—from our culture and work habits, communication style and personal preferences—are becoming even more essential to our business strategy. We are working hard to create an environment in which all employees are valued and respected, including those with disabilities.”)
- Establishing an enterprise-wide team consisting of executives, managers and employees with disabilities to support and advance the recruiting, hiring, retention and promotion of individuals with disabilities. This team may also function as a disability-focused employee resource group (ERG) or affinity group.
- Making (and publicizing) the business case for employing qualified individuals with disabilities. (For example, framing the issue in communication with managers, employers, etc. in terms of return on investment and direct and indirect benefits to the company and its employees; stressing that enhancing diversity by employing people with disabilities recognizes changing demographics of the workforce; improving employee engagement, productivity and reduction of costs; and enhancing retention and advancement).
- Including disability as part of all of the company’s diversity policies and activities. This includes using the words “disability” and “people with disabilities” in statements defining the company’s diversity policies, inviting disability organizations and people with disabilities to the company’s diversity events, and recognizing that people with disabilities are part of the company’s other diverse communities (including racial and ethnic minorities, veterans and the LGBT community).
- Affirming in policy statements the company’s commitment to equal employment opportunity for people with disabilities and taking affirmative steps to employ, retain, and advance qualified individuals with disabilities at all levels.
- 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.
Establishing a universal policy providing workplace flexibility and accommodations for all applicants and employees, with and without disabilities, including the use of telework options, if appropriate.