It's Disability Pride month and we wanted to take a poll of our LinkedIn community to ask them how they thought their company has been doing over the past 12 months as it relates to their disability inclusion programs.
Unfortunately, it is a bit of a mixed bag – but a whopping 62% of respondents said their program was below average and not doing enough (27%), or that they did not have a program at all (35%).
We also had respondents indicated that some progress is being made, 38% said they had a solid program and were doing a lot (18%) or an average program at (20%).
Let's pause on this data for a moment - 33 years after the ADA - 35% of respondents said their company did not have a disability inclusion program, and only 18% said they had a solid program. Why? Well, in our work with companies, we see 3 main reasons why companies are doing well with disability employment and inclusion.
1. Defined Strategy: Good programs have done the work to assess where they are and have defined a strategy for the next 3-5 years. The programs we know that are working well are ones where strategic planning and goal setting has been effectively executed and annual updates to employees and customers are a priority.
2. Senior Leadership: There is not only buy-in and support at the senior level, but someone senior in the organization is leading the initiative. Think of Chief Accessibility Officer at Microsoft – Jenny Lay Flurry or KR Liu, Head of Disability Innovation Marketing at Google. Both lead teams that focus on customer and user experience as well as employee needs and the workplace experiences of employees with disabilities.
3. Budget: Successful disability inclusion programs have an annual budget to execute their strategy. Budgets are reviewed annually and adjustments are made based on need and use. If you are not budgeting for disability inclusion, you don’t really have an executable strategy.
Conversely, companies that are not on solid ground are lacking in all the areas above. The approach of companies without a clear strategy typically operate with ad hoc or just in time approach. Some even fall into the sense of urgency approach, “oh, sh%#, it’s disability pride month, we better do something”.
Companies with an ad hoc approach tend to focus on:
- Activities & Events: Many programs that are doing some things, or not enough, tend to be events and activities driven. For example, they often focus on the two times of year to hold disability inclusion events. These are typically the Anniversary of the ADA/Disability Pride Month, or October which is Disability Employment Awareness Month. These typically include “lunch and learn” activities, or guest speakers. And then, nothing happens until the next event rolls around.
- Training & Webinars: Training is great, and every organization should have a solid disability inclusion training curriculum. But training is not a substitute for a solid program. It is a piece of the puzzle not the entire approach. Training is a tactic not a strategy.
- Audits: Again, audits are important and being able to pass an audit to ensure compliance and to avoid disability discrimination complaints is critical. But if an organization stops at disability compliance, they will not realize the competitive advantages disability inclusion can bring to their organization - like increased retention and access to more customers.
So, if your organization has not made a lot of progress in the past 12 months – it is likely it is taking an ad hoc approach to disability inclusion, and it has not yet adopted a disability strategy. So, what can you do to help drive change? Begin to ask questions like where does the company want to be in 5 years in disability inclusion? Who are the senior leaders championing disability inclusion?
In addition to the larger questions about strategy and leadership, you can take an active role in creating a more inclusive environment. You can begin by knowing the accessible entrances, ask for more accessible meetings, turn on captions during remote meetings etc. All of these will signal to others the need to be more accessible and inclusive.
Let's drive more inclusion in the remainder of 2023!