We’re lucky enough to live in a world that is becoming more and more inclusive of marginalized communities. We have seen significant transformation – culturally, socially, and politically – even though we are not all the way there yet. There are groups and individuals all over the world who have demanded change against racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia, as well as other significant societal issues.
In business, DEI programs are at the forefront of helping these marginalized communities. However, although more than 90% of businesses have a DEI program, only 4% of those include disabled people. Considering that DEI is all about inclusion and diversity, that is a shocking and unacceptable statistic.
There are two reasons why disabled people are being forgotten in the one area that they should be most remembered: systemic ableism and implicit bias.
One way to define systemic ableism is “...a system of institutions, policies, and societal values that disadvantage people based on societal values of intelligence, physical ability, and mental abilities”. In practice, these systems have led to disabled people being excluded and restricted from operating in society. Not only do these systems prevent disabled people from participating in society, they also form the public opinion towards disabled people.
Implicit bias is “an automatic reaction we have towards other people. These attitudes and stereotypes can negatively impact our understanding, actions, and decision-making.” Everyone has some form of implicit bias – our society has conditioned us to think this way.
Do you feel bad for a disabled person when you see them? Do you feel like disabled people are inspiring for doing basic tasks you do every day? These are all examples of implicit bias that disabled people dislike.
Systemic ableism and implicit bias are a vicious cycle, with both justifying and substantiating the actions of one another. A clear example of this in our country’s history is a series of laws called The Ugly Laws, which went into practice in 1867. “The Ugly Laws” stated that anybody who was “diseased, maimed, mutilated, or in any way deformed, so as to be an unsightly or disgusting object” had to be hidden from view. These disturbing and inhumane laws were only officially rebuked in the mid-1970s.
This brutal combination of systemic ableism and implicit bias has made it difficult for disability to be on the radar – even within DEI groups that should have all marginalized communities at the forefront of what they do.
Not only is this a missed opportunity on behalf of DEI teams, but it’s a missed opportunity for growth as a company – something many people don’t realize because our own implicit bias stops us from thinking of disability being a positive thing. The statistics don’t lie, and there are multiple reasons why hiring people with disabilities is one of the best things that a company can do.
1. Employing Disabled People Increases the Bottom Line
AAPD and Disability:IN did a research report to examine the impact that disabled people have on business and finances by looking at companies who prioritized employing people with disabilities vs those who did not. The results were astounding. On average, over the course of four years, companies that employed disabled people had 28% higher revenue than those that did not. Furthermore, they had 30% higher profit margins, and double the net income.
2. Disabled People are a Well of Untapped Talent
If we consider that disabled people make up roughly about 25% of the population of America, then that is an immense amount of people whose skills, talents, and education are not being utilized. People with disabilities have experienced life in a way that others have not, and this unique vantage point has given them skills that are not found in any other group.
3. Employing Disabled People Improves Company Culture
When a company employs disabled people, they are showing that diversity is important to them. A diverse environment is an inclusive environment, and when people are included and feel included, they tend to work harder and have a higher opinion of the place that they work for.
4. Employing Disabled People Reduces Turnover
People with disabilities have significantly higher retention rates than nondisabled people. Hiring and training new staff is costly in time, money, and resources. This not only helps the bottom line, but also ensures loyal and highly experienced staff.
It is undeniable that hiring disabled people gives companies an advantage, and Joshin is here to partner with companies wanting to take the next step to actively work on increasing the number of companies that have disability in their DEI programs. Overcoming systemic ableism and implicit bias is something that has to be done actively and not passively. Here are a few ways that you can help:
As a business owner/CEO:
• Employ more disabled people, and prioritize disability across all departments. Make sure that your hiring managers know that you actively want to see disabled and neurodiverse people fill vacant positions. Set a minimum target that departments need to reach.
• Make your company more accessible for people with disabilities to work there. Ask these questions: Do you have the right infrastructure and benefits in place to assist your disabled staff? Can they move around easily? Do they have access to the health care they need? One of the best ways to approach this is to actually ask disabled people themselves what they need and how you can help.
• Educate employees about ableism and make sure that you aren’t perpetuating ableism. In order to create a work environment that is inclusive, equitable, and not hostile for disabled people, it is your responsibility to ensure that employees and executives are well-educated and informed. Work with disabled specialists to educate your staff and review your processes in all departments.
As an employee:
• Talk to your boss. If disability is not a part of your company’s DEI initiatives, or if there is a noticeable lack of disabled employees, then make a point of talking to your boss about it. Change can’t happen if we stay silent
• Talk to the person in charge of DEI or the Disability ERG. The role of the person who heads up DEI is to ensure that all people have a sense of equity, inclusion, and belonging – including disabled people – even if they haven’t realized it yet. Point out to them that you’ve noticed there isn’t an ERG or DEI strategy that includes disabled people, or if there is an ERG for disability join it and help them advocate.
• Advocate for disabled co-workers. If you see or know of a disabled co-worker who is facing difficulties in your work environment, bring it to the attention of people who can do something about it. Make sure that they know that they are not alone, and that you are willing to advocate for them.
As a concerned citizen:
• Talk about it. One of the simplest things someone can do to advocate for not only disability, but any cause, is open up conversations about it with your friends, co-workers, and people in your world.
• Advocate for it on social media, post about it on your story, or repost graphics from disability activists. When you see an inclusive campaign that highlights disabled people, tag some brands in the comments, and let them know that you want to see something similar from them! Public opinion has a significant impact.
Regardless of your role in your company or community, Joshin is here to help. The 4% statistic can be discouraging, however, when many individuals do small acts to facilitate change, we start to see a difference. We have witnessed this with the #BLM movement, the #MeToo movement, and many, many others. We can have the same impact for disability until the 4% turns into 100%, and we’ll be here to support you every step of the way. For help with the next steps, send us an email at email@example.com. We’d love to connect with you.