October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, a celebration of the contributions of workers with disabilities past and present and a showcase of supportive, inclusive employment policies and practices that benefit employers and employees. It recognizes the importance of ensuring people with disabilities have equal opportunities to succeed in their jobs.
“Our communities and economy are strengthened by the inclusion of all people, including people with disabilities,” said Taryn Williams, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Disability Employment Policy. “Their contributions have historically been vital to our nation’s success and are more important today than ever. We must build an accessible, equitable economy that fully includes the talent and drive of those with disabilities.”
Progress Made, But More Work is Needed
The theme for this year’s National Disability Employment Awareness Month is “Advancing Access and Equity,” and research has shown that more companies around the world are realizing that a disability-inclusive workforce is a strong workforce.
A report by Accenture – “Getting To Equal: The Disability Inclusion Advantage” – found that companies that embrace best practices for employing and supporting people with disabilities in the workforce outperformed their peers. Specifically, companies identified as leaders in disability inclusion had, on average, over a four-year period, 28% higher revenues, double the net incomes, and 30% higher economic profit margins than their counterparts.
This year’s Disability Equality Index (DEI) report also offered a peek into the ways companies are promoting more disability inclusion throughout their corporate culture, leadership, employment, and accessibility programs and practices from the previous year. The index, a joint initiative by Disability:IN and the American Association of People with Disabilities, included data from 485 companies. It showed:
- 93% of companies surveyed encouraged their employees with disabilities to self-identify, up from 91% in 2022.
- 72% marketed directly to the disability community by depicting people with disabilities in their external or internal marketing and/or advertising materials, up from 70% in 2022.
- 64% reported having a requirement to make their digital products accessible and usable for people with disabilities, up from 62% in 2022.
Though the index highlights progress, it also notes there is work to be done. The report found that although 69% of companies issue annual diversity reports, only 24% include disability data in their reporting. It also showed that only 40% of companies polled audited their internal-facing digital products for accessibility.
“People with disabilities are also still nearly invisible on corporate boards,” said Ted Kennedy, Jr., co-chair of the DEI. “Around the world, disability lags behind gender and ethnicity in board diversity considerations. In the 2023 Disability Equality Index, just 7% of companies reported having a board member with a disability.”
Keep the Conversation Going
National Disability Employment Awareness Month is an opportunity to commit to building a stronger, more equitable and inclusive workforce going forward. And the month’s advocacy efforts don’t have to end in October.
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy has ideas for businesses and employees on developing year-round activities that highlight the importance of including disability in all diversity endeavors.
Establish an Employee Resource Group
An Employee Resource Group can offer employees the chance to connect and receive support from others with similar backgrounds or interests. The group can help brainstorm activities, speakers, and topics to include in awareness-building efforts and can serve as a talent pipeline by referring qualified job seekers with disabilities. Click here for information on establishing an Employee Resource Group.
Conduct supervisor training to ensure leaders understand their role in fostering an inclusive workplace. Training may include a review of relevant policies, including the process for providing reasonable accommodations.
Participate in Disability Mentoring Day
Disability Mentoring Day promotes career development for young people with disabilities through hands-on programs, job shadowing, and ongoing mentoring. Disability Mentoring Day is observed on the third Wednesday of each October (Oct 18, 2023!) but companies may choose to host their own events on any day of the month. The American Association of People with Disabilities offers information to assist in implementing a Disability Mentoring Day event.
Recruit Students with Disability
Regularly meeting with students with disabilities during on-campus recruiting trips is a good way for a business to build a pipeline of talented job candidates. If your company recruits at college campuses, contact the schools’ Career Services Office and Disability Services Office and let them know you’re interested in interviewing job candidates with disabilities and brief them on the types of positions available.
Incorporate Disability into the Onboarding Process
The onboarding process is an ideal time to educate new employees on company policies and practices related to disability inclusion (reasonable accommodation procedures, the company’s commitment to equal employment opportunities, etc.). This can help new employees feel good about the organization and company culture and may encourage self-identification among people with hidden disabilities.
Advancing Access and Equity
VITAC is proud to celebrate National Disability Employment Awareness Month and recognizes the many contributions of people with disabilities to America’s workplaces and economy. We believe that workplaces that welcome the talents of all people, including those with disabilities, are critical in building stronger communities. Learn more about how our captioning, transcription, and other communication accessibility services have helped a wide range of domestic and international companies become more inclusive.