Everything is about access. Access to buildings, events, online, movies, employment and of course inclusion. Make no doubt about it, everyday, all day long, it is about Access – can you get in? Can you take part? Can you contribute?
In July, I created an image for social media that was posted across our various platforms. It said, “DEI is Missing the letter A. A is for access, and you can’t have diversity, equity and inclusion if you don’t have access.”
This image seems to have resonated with people as I have seen it restated multiple times and even one of our followers wrote a blog about it, using the same title. I love it! I bring it up again because it is October, Disability Employment Awareness Month, and Access is one of the most important points to discuss and consider this month when talking about employment.
The problem facing many people with disabilities is – we don’t have access. Companies boast inclusive workplaces and proudly share their diversity, equity and inclusion programs but most companies still do not treat disability as an employee diversity segment.
According to Dr. Pete Rutigliano, Sr. Principal at Mercer. "In reviewing our global engagement data sets, we found only 4% of companies investigate disability as a diversity segment."
Unfortunately, most companies still view people with disabilities as a group to be “taken care of” and that care should be provided by the government, non-profits, or religious organization. Companies don't see themselves in this role. But companies have a different role to play that is of a disability inclusive employer. This is a role that is still evolving for corporations and the mindset shift has not completely happened yet.
So, if you are ready to begin engaging employees with disabilities, and ensuring they have access, I have a few tips to help you begin, or advance where you are today.
Audit Your Access Points
October is a great time to assess your access points. Review website accessibility, online applications, do recruiters know how to quickly provide accommodations for candidates? Do customer service reps know how to support those with disabilities, are leaders providing opportunities for employees with disabilities? Can employees comfortably discuss their disability status?
Understand the Experiences of Employees & Customers with Disabilities
Talk to and survey employees and customers with disabilities. It is important to get an understanding of how your company is doing. Surveys can help identify gaps in the employee experience and customer service, and they can help clarify new business opportunities. Sign up for Amplify – the first ever disability engagement survey. You can learn more by emailing us email@example.com
Set Goals & Be Accountable
Companies often feel overwhelmed on how to start disability inclusion programs. Like any new project it is important to get educated, set goals, and identify a leader with authority to hold the organization accountable for achieving the goals. Include hiring targets in your goal setting. I recommend 10% of all new hires should be a person with a disability.
Make Access An Everyday Priority
Offer up access without being asked. Companies need to ensure job applications, interviews, interview rooms, meetings, and events have multiple avenues for people with disabilities to engage and participate. Think captioning in meetings, online chats, and ensure accessibility features are present in shared documents. Microsoft has some great product accessibility features; every employee should know how to use them.
People with disabilities are world’s largest diversity group. Let’s make sure they have Access so they can be part of your diversity, equity and inclusion programs.