As of 2020, the DEI industry was valued at $7.5 billion with projected growth to hit $15.4B by 2026, and there’s good reason for it. Diversity initiatives have the potential to increase a company’s cash flow by 2.5x and productivity by 35% – but when it comes to inclusion, employees are often left less than satisfied. In fact, 65% of employees reported they don’t think their managers foster an inclusive culture, which makes diversity initiatives fall flat.
With 90% of companies having a plan for diversity, but only 4% of those DEI-focused businesses including disability within their plans, employee dissatisfaction rate is destined to grow – especially when we consider that 20% of our population has some form of a disability.
So what can you do to create DEI strategies that actually stick and include disabled people? Here are five simple steps you can begin to implement today.
1. Learn from lived experiences of disabled people.
Nobody knows the stigmas, system-wide issues, and inequalities that disabled people face better than disabled people themselves. Caretakers, parents, siblings, and loved ones of disabled people may have a basic understanding of some things the disability community is up against but proximity to disability will always fall short to understanding what it truly means to experience ableism. Elevate disabled voices and look for intersectionality opportunities in order to hear the fullest expression of the lived disabled experience. Host a panel from within your company, source a disabled speaker or incentivize your team to consume content from disabled creators.
2. Involve all departments of your company.
We often hear “Disability inclusion? Oh, that’s HR or DEI’s arena,” but disability inclusion initiatives need to be company-wide – just like all DEI initiatives. Disabled people belong in every department, every level of leadership, and all spaces where decisions are being made. Their lived experiences not only build diverse workspaces but offer perspectives that help companies expand and improve.
3. Invest in strategic partners.
Making workspaces and environments accessible doesn’t have to be daunting or expensive. Investing in relationships with organizations that can advise on how to make your workplaces more accessible and implementing their expertise will show your employees you care about making work a positive experience for all people. A 2020 survey report prepared by the Job Accommodation Network for the Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy showed that 56% of workplace accommodations for employees cost nothing to implement, and the remaining usually cost $500 or under. Additional bonus for your company? These accommodations are eligible to be written off on taxes.
4. Address implicit bias company-wide.
We all live with a level of implicit bias every day. Implicit bias refers to the assumptions that we all make throughout our lives that we are so unaware of, we don’t even stop to think and question. Because disability rights have been so far behind other civil rights movements, and disabled people have been left out of conversations involving diversity and equity, our ableist implicit biases have largely been unchallenged in any capacity. By hosting workshops surrounding ableism and implicit bias, you educate your entire team and better the working environment for current and prospective disabled employees.
5. Foster safe spaces for self-identification.
If 20% of people identify as disabled, there is a great possibility your company already has disabled people working there, who just haven’t identified as disabled yet. Because of the stigma and ableist implicit bias that we all live with, most disabled people mask their disability out of fear of prejudice surrounding their disabilities. Not only is this harmful towards disabled people, it means disabled employees who haven’t self-identified don’t have the accommodations they need in order to be their most productive selves. Start by hosting events coaching teammates to learn about implicit bias, providing health care and benefits that support the needs of disabled people, and creating a resource list of the accommodations available to all people.
Regardless of where you are in your disability inclusion process, we’re here to help. Joshin can be provided as a care benefit to help disabled people have a greater sense of safety to open up a conversation about disability, or we can refer your team to a trusted partner to help meet your accommodation, communications or overall inclusion goals. For help with the next steps, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to connect with you.