Including People with Disabilities in Business

We Include is creating a world where people with disabilities are seen, welcomed and valued.

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In 2018, The New York Times reported on a study showing companies that championed people with disabilities actually outperformed others, saying, “Revenues were 28% higher, net income 200% higher and profit margins 30% higher. Companies that improved internal practices for disability inclusion were also four times more likely to see higher total shareholder returns.”
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One of these companies was Microsoft, which launched a talent recruitment and training program specifically for people on the autism spectrum because, “A brain with autism is highly gifted at coding, problem-solving and focus,” according to an article on Inc.com. Microsoft also adapted its hiring process for people with autism, thereby “tapping a largely untouched gold mine of talent.”

Compared to their neurotypical counterparts, employees with disabilities exhibit more:

  • Loyalty

  • Creativity

  • Problem-solving skills

  • Enthusiasm for work

  • Commitment to a routine

  • Company dedication

Source: Job Accommodation Network

Chase, JP Morgan, CVS Health and other major corporations have followed suit, rapidly embracing the business-savvy practice of hiring people with disabilities.
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As the Institute for Corporate Productivity reports, “Hiring individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities adds highly motivated people to the workforce (which can lead to increased productivity) and it promotes an inclusive culture that appeals to the talent pool organizations want to attract. The improved customer satisfaction can lead to better sales and customer retention. The enhanced employer brand can translate to a better image in the community.”
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In short, hiring people with disabilities is great for business. If you’re not doing it, you’re missing out on opportunities to improve image, morale and the bottom line. This guide shows how to get started and what to do.

Finding the Talent

HR can easily tap into this “gold mine of talent” through existing networks dedicated to matching companies with great candidates who have disabilities. Although adapting hiring practices, job description language and office protocols may take an initial adjustment, the dividends will pay with a workforce of loyal employees grateful for the opportunity and happy with their roles in your business.

Employer Assistance and Resource Network

The Employer Assistance and Resource Network (EARN) helps employers find candidates with disabilities. Click here for websites, organizations, and valuable links to finding candidates with disabilities.

State Agencies

Click here to find your state agency that can connect you with candidates seeking employment.

U.S. Department of Labor

The U.S. Department of Labor offers several fact sheets and other resources to educate employers. Click here to learn more about effective recruitment and hiring strategies.

Review Your Job Postings

Review your job postings to make sure they don’t include arbitrary, exclusionary requirements that could deter candidates with disabilities from applying.

For example, many office job listings state “Must be able to lift up to 20 pounds,” when in reality, the heaviest object most office employees lift is a five-pound ream of paper.

To write inclusive postings, follow these three steps for writing ADA compliant job descriptions.

Update Your Equal Employment Opportunities Statement

Use your job description as an effective tool to communicate your company’s commitment to hiring people with disabilities through an Equal Employment Opportunities statement, a diversity and inclusion statement, or both. Check out examples from Ongig and inspiration from top companies.

Adjust Your Interview Process

Provide alternative ways for a job candidate with a disability to prove why he or she would make a good employee.

For example, use a working interview in lieu of a talking-only interview or allow candidates to write down their answers.

Interviewers should be confident asking job candidates what they need to be successful, both in the interview and in the job.

Ensuring Success

People with disabilities may require a longer onboarding or training time to accommodate their unique brain function or physical capabilities. When employers make this investment in a larger learning curve for new hires with disabilities, they earn a dedicated employee who will be less likely to call in sick, leave the company, be late, or have a poor attitude. The return far exceeds the investment.

Nearly 60% of accommodations cost nothing, while the rest average around $500 per person with a disability.

Source: Business.com

  • When you’ve hired someone with a disability, you can increase workplace productivity and engagement by learning how to provide the right tools and flexibility to get the job done. Partner with a global network dedicated to disability inclusion in business like The Valuable 500 and tap into existing best practices to give you the strategies you need to ensure success.
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  • Make sure employees with disabilities get coaching and clear communication about objectives and goals. Training employers and managers on how to talk comfortably about disabilities and accommodations creates a productive work dynamic.
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  • Strengthen anti-discriminatory policies and integrate diversity and inclusion strategies into performance management, leadership assessment, and company goals. Workshops, trainings, and professional education can help your company understand the benefits of co-workers with disabilities.
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  • Pair new hires with a mentor to make sure the new candidate feels welcome in their team and understands the company as a whole. This guide is aimed at the tech industry, but the principles apply everywhere.

Capitalizing on Social Action

  • $1.3 TRILLION DOLLARS:

    Discretionary income of people with disabilities
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  • $1.9 TRILLION DOLLARS:

    Buying power of people with disabilities
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  • $10.7 TRILLION DOLLARS:

    Annual disposable income of friends and families of people with disabilities

This much market influence, coupled with the growing social trends of acceptance and inclusion as commonplace business practices, means that businesses everywhere should be seeing people with disabilities as a viable market and desirable demographic. The key is for companies to go beyond just ADA compliance and cater to these customers as important consumers. It’s good business for a better world.

Creating a Culture of Inclusion

Integrating employees with disabilities takes unified, intentional effort from leadership and HR departments in order to shift the workplace culture to one that authentically embraces inclusion.
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In the past, the corporate view of employees with disabilities was rooted in a “can’t do” mentality when, in reality, employees with disabilities often outshine their non-disabled peers. This outdated thinking remains the biggest barrier to disability inclusion in the workplace. In businesses and corporations that are seeing the benefits of inclusion, leadership presumes competence of the workers with disabilities.
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With inclusion education and a genuine appreciation of how an inclusive workplace improves productivity, profit and morale, creating a culture of inclusion builds a better workplace for all.

→ Presume Competence

→ Provide Education

  • Practice the principles of diversity and inclusion from the top-down to increase participation and contribution from all employees.
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  • True inclusion removes all barriers, discrimination, and intolerance. These companies found that diversity and inclusion initiatives made everyone feel included and supported in the workplace.
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  • The Job Accommodation Network provides free expert advice on workplace accommodations to help candidates with disabilities apply for a job and maximize their productivity once onboard.

  • Ensure everyone within your organization understands why inclusivity matters to the business, your brand and society.
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  • Managers should engage in training to get comfortable with how to discuss disability and learn what opportunities people with disabilities can bring to the table.
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  • Appoint a board-level champion who is accountable for disability performance within your organization.

Including Customers

PROVIDE PHYSICAL ACCESS

  • Ensure your business has wheelchair-accessible entrances. Ramps can be easy and affordable to purchase or build.

  • Provide enough room for customers in wheelchairs or power chairs to easily navigate to where they need to go (ex. Front door to the ordering counter, bathroom, tables, etc.) See the most recent ADA guidelines here.

  • Create flexible seating options, like tables where a chair can be removed so customers in wheelchairs can access the tabletop.

CREATE A SENSORY-FRIENDLY ENVIRONMENT

  • Be willing to adjust lighting or music if a customer asks. People with sensory sensitivities process light, sound, smell, and texture in very specific and sometimes intensely unpleasant ways.

  • When possible, decorate with muted colors and natural lighting.

  • Create an easier-to-read version of your menu or list of services. Have this available inside your business and on your website.

  • Train staff on how to recognize signs of sensory overload and provide assistance to help.

  • Be willing to use different communication mediums (ex. in person, phone, email, sending info in the mail).

  • Research the ways others in your industry are including customers with disabilities (ex. A simple Google search for ?How to offer haircuts to clients with disabilities? offers more than 48.5 million results.)

SHOW THE WORLD THE STRIDES YOU ARE MAKING FOR INCLUSION

  • Review your media/marketing and consider how you could represent and speak to a broader spectrum of people. Check out the World Federation of Advertisers online diversity and inclusion hub and this diversity in marketing guide.

  • Mention the inclusive services you offer on your website and social media channels.

Download and Print the guide here

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For more guidance and information on making your business inclusive, email [email protected] or fill out the form below.