Working for the Day We Don't Need a Special Observance of DEIA
Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility (DEIA) initiatives in the workplace get a lot of attention every October, as National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) is observed, and companies post their support of the concept.
But this year at NSITE, an organization that provides a continuum of employment services that connect employers with talented, dedicated people who are blind, visually impaired, and/or a veterans to meet their workforce needs. We decided to do something different, and instead of turning to business leaders to learn about their initiatives, we opted to go directly to the workers themselves and see how they view their companies’ commitment to the disabled. The findings show there is still much work to be done when it comes to recruiting disabled workers and incorporating them into the workplace and engaging their colleagues in the process.
Two things in our national survey jumped out at me:
Recruitment Gap: 63% indicated that they either did not believe or were unsure if their company actively recruited disabled candidates.
Training Gap: 59% reported not knowing or being uncertain about whether their workplace provided specialized sensitivity training or educational programs concerning disabled employees.
These are two core elements to DEIA initiatives. The findings reflect a “miss” in how the business world communicates DEIA initiatives to their team members who can play pivotal roles as advocates for their employers’ initiatives and allies to their disabled colleagues. But perhaps most importantly, it underscores the misperceptions that employers still hold about incorporating disabled individuals into the workplace.
As an organization dedicated to helping blind and low-vision individuals secure career-advancing positions, we interact with companies of all sizes. Unfortunately, we continue to witness resistance to hiring individuals with disabilities, driven by the mistaken belief that integrating them into the office culture and systems will be costly and time-consuming.
However, as I have emphasized in previous columns, this is simply not the case.
Many sighted individuals remain unaware of the technology that allows blind and low vision individuals to access information and use standard office programs.
For example, in the same survey, nearly 40 percent of respondents said they did not believe that IT is a role that could be performed by a blind or visually-impaired worker.
We think that the candidates we’ve placed, and their employers would beg to differ with this one. It contradicts the reality that NSITE’s partnership program with internationally recognized CISCO network training program has successfully trained blind job candidates for these roles.
So, as we commemorate NDEAM this October, it should be recognized that beyond the need for visibility and for keeping this on the agenda of every business leader, the other part of the DEIA equation is the work we do to educate and support businesses that are committed to true diversity and accessibility in the workplace.
We are making it a priority in the coming year to work with businesses hiring blind and low vision employees to help assure a seamless integration into their teams, and are offering a “BEI” training, which educates employers and employees about the myths and realities of working with blind and low vision individuals.
Our hope is that next year, when we field this study, we’ll find that employees are better educated about what their companies are doing to recruit and retain diverse talent.
Survey Visual with NSITE logo and slogan “A Vision for Talent” and “Your Talent Management Solution” with illustration of two figures at computer desks and the results of the NSITE NDEAM survey with links to NSITE’s @GET_NSITE social media platforms.
Jonathan Lucus, MPA, EML is the Executive Director of NSITE, a DC-based non-profit that connects corporate leadership to exceptional, dedicated employees, and supports organizations across the entire continuum of corporate training, talent recruitment, talent development, onboarding, and long-term support. He was named one of Business Insider’s Top 33 HR Leaders and is currently a Doctoral Candidate at the Rossier School of Education at the University of Southern California.