3 reasons to bring disability inclusion to the mainstream: the rising, the unforeseen & the unforgettable

Businesses all over the world are making great strides for diversity and inclusion (D&I), but often disability is lower on the list of priorities.

Our research found that 94% of HR and D&I professionals have established neurodiversity and disability inclusion best practices into their workplace. While this is brilliant, we've still got a long way to go. That's because when it comes to D&I priorities, our research also found that disability is still ranked as one of the lowest. Race was the top priority at 38%, followed by gender at 25%. Socio-economic background, disability, and sexual orientation were ranked the lowest at 16%, 15%, and 6% respectively.

There are common myths that disability inclusion is complicated or expensive. 66% of employers say the costs of workplace adjustments are a barrier to employing a person with a disability. But this simply isn’t true.

Research by the Business Disability Forum reveals the positive impact of ‘developing a global disability inclusion strategy’. Of over 100 global brands prioritising disability inclusion, 80% said it allows them to ‘access a wider pool of talent, drives employee motivation, and has impact on business objectives’. Companies that champion disability inclusion also report 30% higher profit margins compared to their peers.

Negative attitudes and stigma also remain a barrier. 24% of employers say they would be less likely to employ someone with a disability. Of these people, 60% say they would be concerned an employee with a disability would struggle to do the job.

Speaking around such stigma, Caroline Casey, Founder of The Valuable 500 says;

“People with disabilities bring diversity of thought and lived experience and a wealth of talent, all vital for the business sustainability agenda.” 

Organisations must work harder to end exclusion. When we create inclusive work environments, all talents can thrive. In our on demand webinar, the Valuable 500 and IBM shared with us what they’re doing for disability inclusion.

Until you get caught up, let’s explore 3 key reasons why it’s important to take action now. Beyond the moral responsibility to do so, below we take a look at the growing need to do so. We also explore the benefits of disability inclusion, and discuss various types of disabilities that must be included.

3 reasons why you need to consider disability in your D&I agenda, now and for the future.

1. The rising

1 in 5 individuals of working age in the UK have a disability or long-term health condition. That’s a huge portion of the population to ignore, especially in today’s current climate.

The pandemic has enlightened many workers when it comes to their working life. 1 in 3 have retrained, realising new career aspirations. Others have changed employers to improve their work-life balance (26%), reduce stress (21%) and feel more valued at work (21%).  A further 1 in 4 are planning to change jobs in the future. 

Employers that are championing inclusion are becoming employers of choice. Many organisations are realising the need to improve their practices, and focus on creating a culture that’s inclusive of everyone. 

Speaking on this, Diane Lightfoot, CEO of Business Disability Forum says;

 “Since the start of the pandemic, we've continued to get new members and new partners. They have been saying that they're joining because of the difficult time and it's given them a time to think. It's made them realise that they need to be inclusive across all strands of diversity, that the pandemic has really highlighted that.”

As we look to the future, the need to be disability inclusive continues to grow.

By 2050, the number of people living with a disability is expected to double. With each new generation, people are also staying in the workforce longer. Across Europe, 50% of 55-64 year-olds continue to work, compared to just 37% a decade earlier. Given that 46% of people aged 60+ have a disability, there’s an increasing need to pioneer disability inclusion, for current and future generations to come.

Discover how you can become a pioneer in our on demand webinar, where you’ll hear from organisations leading the way.

2. The unforeseen

Disability affects all of us. Most of us will have a disability in our lifetime, or care for someone with a disability. 

In fact, 83% of disabilities are acquired, whether due to an accident, illness or genetic condition. Organisations that include disability inclusion in their D&I agenda are better prepared to support employees through life’s events. That’s because they have initiatives and tools in place to help employees adjust to new ways of working and living.

With schemes like the UK government’s Access to Work scheme, employers are empowered to do their part for disability inclusion.

Speaking on the value of the scheme, a Texthelp employee with acquired brain injury says;

“The Access to Work scheme gave my employers the opportunity to provide me with tools that suited my needs. After meeting with an assessor, they were able to recommend equipment that would help me overcome difficulties I had as a result of my acquired brain injury. When I returned to the workplace, everything was already there ready for me. It was so simple and straightforward. I felt so supported by my employers, and the tools in place give me the opportunity to continue my career successfully. It makes me feel like I have a contribution to make.”

Sadly, not all organisations make use of the available schemes. 

For many individuals, diagnosis of a disability results in them being undervalued and unwelcome in the workplace. For example, 26% of those diagnosed with Lupus found themselves being dismissed from employment post-diagnosis. Most recently, over half of people with Long Covid have experienced some form of discrimination or disadvantage at work because of their condition.

Organisations must think critically about the inclusivity of their working environments. This can mean looking at the effectiveness of workplace adjustments processes. Effective adjustments empower different ways of working, and give employees with disabilities the opportunity to thrive in the same way as any other employee. With this, employees often feel more confident to be themselves - and that goes a long way in retaining your talented workforce.

Our friends at IBM are making great strides in this space. Realising that strengths lie in the diversity of their employees, they work hard to create a workplace where employees can ‘Be Equal.’ Today, 87% of their employees say they can be their authentic selves at work. In our on demand webinar, IBM shared the initiatives helping them to create a welcoming workplace for every employee.

3. The unforgettable

People with disabilities bring a wealth of talent to any organisation. Empathy, tenacity, and resilience are just a few of the characteristics associated with people with disabilities. By including disability in the D&I agenda, businesses are better placed to attract and retain such talent.

Organisations can also benefit from a workforce that’s more diverse than they think.

Disability comes in many forms, from cognitive and behavioural disabilities, to physical disabilities. They can also be permanent, temporary, or situational. As such, disability inclusion strategies often make the workplace a better and more enjoyable place for everyone. This is particularly true for neurodivergent individuals.

Every employee will have preferred ways of working. All staff think differently too. For neurodivergent people with dyslexia, autism, or ADHD, for example, they often think and behave in ways that are more unique to the typical population. With this comes the benefits of out-of-the-box thinking, creative solutions and more.

Organisations that are inclusive of disability often create a culture that embraces different ways of working. Employees are empowered to achieve in their own way. With that, organisations reap the benefits that come with a workforce of different thinkers. And talents that are simply unforgettable.

Disability inclusion must become a natural part of any organisation's D&I strategy. Not only is it the right thing to do, it brings huge benefits for the business agenda, and the wider workforce.

So, what can you do to take action?

Disability inclusion is about creating a workplace that makes everyone feel welcomed, understood, accepted, and valued. A place where individuals are celebrated for their differences, and feel confident to be themselves. Many organisations are making waves in the disability inclusion space. Some of which shared advice in a recent webinar that you can now watch on demand.

Tune to watch our free webinar on demand with IBM, and The Valuable 500 - a global business collective made up of 500 CEOs and their companies, innovating together for disability inclusion. Listen as they explore disability inclusion strategies that are moving the needle to support people with disabilities and neurodifferences.