According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 19.3% of people with a disability were employed in 2019. While this may not seem like much when compared to the 66.3% of people without a disability who were employed in 2019, it is a marked improvement from 2018. This is promising, as it shows that disability inclusion has become a greater focus for many corporate businesses.
The State of Accessibility among Global Brands
In fact, a study of 120 global brands shows that more than 90% of those businesses are working to be more inclusive and accessible to employees and clients with disabilities.
The study, which is titled “Towards a Disability-Smart World: Developing a Global Disability Inclusion Strategy“, was performed by the Business Disability Forum (BDF) and Royal Dutch Shell. They partnered on an examination of the disability inclusion policies of large, global companies like Microsoft, Shell, Accenture, Unilever, and more.
90% of businesses that participated in this study believed that “disability inclusion is the right thing to do.” Additionally, more than 80% of those businesses stated that a more inclusive business model allows them to reach a wider pool of potential employees and clients/customers.
However, while a large number of the study participants agreed that disability inclusion is important, only 23% of them had some kind of inclusion strategy in place. 57% were either developing a strategy or considering developing a strategy.
The study named a number of common barriers that may be preventing more businesses from adopting an inclusion strategy. Some of these barriers include:
- Legal requirements in different countries/states.
- Questions about how to handle cultural differences in how disabilities are understood around the globe and drafting global insights.
- Not knowing how best to align inclusion policies and processes on a global level.
- Acquiring the necessary resources to continually encourage engagement with disabilities and accessibility.
With these barriers in mind, how do businesses continue working toward a more inclusive business model?
How to Work Toward a More Inclusive Business Model
The study offers a few pieces of fundamental advice.
1. Don’t be overwhelmed
The BDF suggests that businesses start small. Once your business has gathered data on the successes and impact of disability inclusion, they can move forward from there. Prioritize projects or locations for inclusion activities. Scale up from your small beginnings. Your business does not have to have everything figured out right from the start.
2. Identify a senior global disability champion
A disability champion is someone who advocates for speaks on the issue of disability inclusion and equal access. Having a senior disability champion will make it easier to influence upper-level employees, such as senior managers, to take action. Appointing a senior disability champion can also help ensure employees at all levels understand the importance of inclusion within your business.
3. Build support at the top
Disability impacts every aspect of the organization. Because disability and inclusion impacts your organization at every level, it’s a good idea to secure commitment from senior employees across different departments. You may want to establish a forum that includes members of the HR, recruitment, and digital technology departments.
4. Engage leads at local and regional levels
In order to understand the objectives of a global strategy and implement it on a smaller scale, it’s important to engage with local leads. Working collaboratively between local and regional levels will help your employees interpret a global strategy in ways that are applicable to their country or region’s culture. This will also help employees understand the appropriate local or regional legal requirements. Disability inclusion may be new to some locations, so it’s important for you as a global brand to motivate and educate local leads, and encourage local colleagues to work together.
Moving Forward with Global Disability Inclusion
While change will not happen for your organization overnight, don’t be discouraged. Start small, continue working, and remember that this is a learning process for many.
As one of the study participants stated: “Respect the challenges that come with becoming a disability-smart organization but don’t be overawed by them. It’s better to just start and learn as you go, rather than trying to line up your perfect strategy.”