Written by Charlotte Dales, CEO & Co-founder of Inclusively
Often, diversity in the workplace is defined by differences in race, gender, and sexual orientation, with little attention given to the disability community — the largest minority population in the world, and one of the most frequently discriminated against. One recent study found that while prejudices related to gender and gender identity, sexual orientation, and race have all improved measurably over a 14-year period, hidden prejudices against people with disabilities have barely changed over the same period — and could take more than 200 years to reach neutrality, or zero bias.
Disability inclusion is both a moral and economic imperative.
As of May of 2022, there were twice as many job openings than there were unemployed people in the US; at the same time, people with disabilities are employed at one-third the rate of those without disabilities. Employers who embrace disability inclusion will gain access to nearly 14 million “hidden workers” who are being screened out by biased Applicant Tracking System algorithms and inflexible hiring processes.
What are the benefits of making change? And the risks of the status quo?
The risks of not embracing disability inclusion are becoming more stark: a recent Forrester study commissioned by Inclusively found that the consequences of not embedding Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) into business practices will have a profound effect. Respondents, who are all HR professionals, believe that not improving accessibility practices by 2025 will result in:
- A 5.6% decline in employee satisfaction
- A 3.2% decline in employee retention
- A 2.8% decline in brand value
These numbers are supported by global workplace surveys. Randstad’s 2022 Workmonitor report reiterated that Millennials and Generation Z are choosing purpose, flexibility, and inclusion over compensation. Deloitte’s annual Millennial and Gen Z survey* found that those who are satisfied with their employers’ societal and environmental impact and their efforts to create a diverse and inclusive culture are more likely to want to stay with their employer for more than five years.
These statistics support the reality that embracing disability inclusion will have a positive impact on employee engagement — not just of employees with disabilities but of the entire workforce. And employee engagement is just one of multiple benefits that companies who champion disability inclusion also achieve, including higher revenue, higher net income, higher profit margins, and higher shareholder returns.
Three steps to incorporating disability inclusion into DEI objectives.
Disability inclusion can feel intimidating, especially if approached from a compliance standpoint versus a human standpoint. But as we’ve established, disability inclusion is good for business, good for employees, and even good for the country. According to one recent study, if just one percent more of persons with disabilities joined the U.S. labor force, GDP could get a boost of up to $25 billion.
So how to start? Here are three steps that will get your organization headed toward true disability inclusion:
1. Assess the entire applicant-to-employee journey.
Work within your organization to determine how job seekers with disabilities are being met today. Find out whether they are being offered interview accommodations and whether those offers are universal or case-by-case. Study how the accommodations process works for new hires today — is it a clear and easy-to-manage process? Finally, explore how well the talent acquisition team is trained on disability inclusion in hiring practices. Inevitably you will find gaps and inconsistencies that, when addressed, will increase your organization’s ability to attract and retain hidden talent.
2. Establish incentives and processes for hiring candidates with disabilities.
Once the journey is made clear and gaps and inconsistencies are addressed, organizations can implement processes that will screen in previously screened-out talent. This may mean creating a more streamlined accommodations process; establishing incentives for both talent acquisition teams and hiring managers to hire diverse talent; or partnering with an organization specialized in diversity hiring, like Inclusively, to provide training on disability inclusion and ableism in the workplace. Employees will see these steps as positive advances to a more inclusive workplace for all.
3. Prioritize accessibility when procuring technology.
Accessibility should be a requirement across the entire employee experience, especially when procuring new technology. In a distributed workforce, it’s critical that all employees have the tools they need not just to be productive, but to feel included. It’s remarkable how easy making a meeting inclusive can be (offering closed-captioning, for example) and shocking how infrequently it happens. We predict that five years from now, no company all-hands or town halls will take place without accessible communication options for all employees.
For the workforce to become more equitable, employers need to look at current programs and services with a lens that acknowledges and supports people with disabilities — ideally asking for help to refine or rebuild these systems from employees with disabilities. The next step requires seeking support from experts. Use resources in the disability community, co-create, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. The more we learn from one another, the more accessible and inclusive we can make the workplace for all.
Deloitte, The Deloitte Global 2022 Millennial & Gen Z Survey, 2022
About the Author: Charlotte Dales
Charlotte Dales (She/Hers) is the Co-Founder and CEO of Inclusively, the technology-centered employment platform driving inclusion and opportunities for people with disabilities in the workplace. Charlotte’s cousin Cameron became the first licensed aesthetician in the state of Florida with Down syndrome, and after witnessing Cameron’s career fulfillment, she became passionate about replicating her employment success story for disabled talent and started Inclusively.
Charlotte co-founded the workforce inclusion platform Inclusively to unlock the power of tomorrow’s workforce by opening doors to untapped talent. Inclusively’s workforce inclusion platform, built upon the values of universal design, equity, transparency, and empathy, empowers employers with the accommodation insights, access, training, and support they need to attract and retain candidates with disabilities. On our platform, candidates self-disclose the accommodations they need to be successful, and our AI matches those candidates to jobs based on skills, experience, and accommodations. Our platform also provides employers a single point of entry to the fragmented network of disability advocacy organizations; valuable insights on requested accommodations; and extensive accommodations and inclusion training and support.
Before launching Inclusively, Charlotte started her career in finance with Deutsche Bank in London working with trading desks around the world. After five years, she left her bank job and co-founded her first company, CAKE Technologies, a mobile payment and reservation application for restaurants and bars which scaled to over 200 restaurants in London and was acquired by American Express. Charlotte’s experience in technology and startups has allowed Inclusively to provide a new technology solution to drive authentic diversity and inclusion in the workplace–helping employers acquire and retain top talent based on job seekers’ needed accommodations to build sustainable livelihoods and careers. Under Charlotte’s leadership, Inclusively is proud to be modernizing recruitment by creating structure and transparency around accommodations, benefitting all job seekers. Charlotte graduated from the University of Colorado, Boulder, and lives in Richmond, Virginia with her husband, daughter, and son.