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 general 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.


Why should employers care about creating a disability-inclusive workplace?

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 U.S. So, by proactively employing individuals with disabilities, businesses can gain a better understanding of how to meet the needs of this important and expanding customer base.

You may be asking, “What skillsets could employees with disabilities bring to my company?” The answer is as diverse as the skillsets of any qualified individuals. Individuals 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.

What does it mean to be disability-inclusive?

There are numerous characteristics associated with disability-friendly companies, and what’s often surprising to employers is that most inclusion practices geared toward employees and job seekers with disabilities have the added bonus of benefiting everyone. Some common characteristics of disability-inclusive companies include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Fostering 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.
  • Ensuring 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.
  • Promoting disability-inclusive TALENT ACQUISITION AND RETENTION PROCESSES by establishing personnel systems and job descriptions that facilitate not only the hiring but also advancement of qualified individuals with disabilities.
  • Providing 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.
  • Taking steps to ensure EXTERNAL AND INTERNAL COMMUNICATION OF COMPANY POLICIES AND PRACTICES around its commitment to disability inclusion and providing training on disability-related workplace issues to staff.
  • Ensuring a barrier-free workplace by maintaining ACCESSIBLE INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGY, as well as a workplace that is physically and digitally accessible as well as inclusive and welcoming of people with disabilities.
  • Promoting ACCOUNTABILITY AND SELF-IDENTIFICATION, if appropriate, by adopting written policies, practices and procedures and measuring their effectiveness in order to identify areas for improvement.

For more information about these seven core components of a disability-inclusive organization, and a menu of strategies for achieving them, visit the Inclusion@Work Framework for Building a Disability-Inclusive Organization.

About the Author

The Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion (EARN) is a free website that offers information and resources to help organizations of all sizes recruit, hire, retain and advance people with disabilities; build inclusive workplace cultures; and meet diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility (DEIA) goals. Visit www.AskEARN.org .

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