The number of people with disabilities in the workforce is now “above historic highs” – the U.S. is currently home to over 5.8 million workers with disabilities, accounting for almost 4% of workers overall. Nevertheless, only 13% of businesses have achieved the Department of Labor’s goal of 7% disability representation in their workforce. Many companies are therefore finding themselves unable to attract and retain the talent they need to drive innovation and beat the competition. By taking steps to improve disability-inclusion practices, you can successfully ensure a more diverse, talented, and innovative workforce.
Assess your application process for accessibility. Is the application format and language used in your job descriptions acting as an inadvertent barrier preventing people with disabilities from applying? For example, it’s not uncommon for job descriptions to list general requirements (such as, typing, driving, or heavy lifting) for physical tasks that aren’t actually a key part of the role. Also, look at other companies for inspiration – Microsoft, for instance, realized they weren’t hiring enough people with autism. Pinpointing their interview process as the source of this inequality, they eliminated it entirely for candidates with autism. Instead, Microsoft partnered up with an autism-support organization to source candidates with autism and take them through an autism-friendly evaluation process; this process featured exercxises to assess various skills (including, technical and teamwork), as well as practical corporate training.
Providing both short- and long-term disability insurance can provide employees with vital financial protection if they’re unable to work. In fact, if you’re in California, New York, Hawaii, California, Rhode Island, or New Jersey, you’re legally required to provide employees with short-term disability coverage. Short-term disability protects part or all of an employee’s income (usually around 60%-70% of their salary) if they sustain an injury outside of work. Long-term disability insurance, on the other hand, typically replaces 40%-60% of their salary with coverage often lasting between five to ten years. By providing these disability benefits, you can ensure your employees with disabilities have access to a vital safety net.
Creating a welcoming, inclusive community can best ensure employees with disabilities are set up for professional success. For example, Bank of America recently ran a survey asking employees with disabilities what they could improve in terms of diversity and inclusion. The results showed that while training and accessibility were already great, what employees really desired was greater connection with other employees with disabilities. So, in response, the Bank of America launched an online system that allows employees to see other employees with disabilities (with permission of each employee, of course) both on a local and national level. In turn, employees with disabilities can more easily connect with one another.
Improving your company’s disability-inclusion practices is essential for creating a diverse and equitable workforce. By assessing your application process, offering the right insurance, and creating an inclusive community, you can ensure your business is welcoming to everyone, including people with disabilities. Incorporating corporate DEI training can further enhance understanding and sensitivity towards the unique needs of employees with disabilities, fostering an even more inclusive and supportive workplace culture.