What is disability inclusion?
Organizations are working harder in the technology age to promote diversity and inclusion among their employees and customers. This includes people with disabilities. According to the CDC, diversity inclusion means “understanding the relationship between the way people function and how they participate in society and making sure everybody has the same opportunities to participate in every aspect of life to the best of their abilities and desires.” Disability inclusion comprises people with mobility, sensory, and cognitive disabilities. These can be permanent or temporary conditions.
What should organizations do to ensure disability inclusion?
Ensuring disability inclusion within your organization starts with recruitment and includes every aspect of the work environment, as well as customer interactions. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission enforces laws pertaining to employment. The law forbids discrimination in every aspect of employment.
Hiring and Recruiting
Organizations that promote disability inclusion provide accessible means of recruitment. This means their open positions are listed on accessible websites and in formats that are accessible to people with disabilities. It means job listings describe skills needed to perform the job, but not skills that aren’t. A receptionist position doesn’t often actually require the ability to lift 40 lbs. Not every position requires a person who has a driver’s license. Disability inclusion also means making the application process accessible. Forms such as job applications need to work with assistive technology such as screen readers and connected Braille displays. The interview location must also be accessible to interested applicants.
Onboarding employees includes filling out necessary forms and paperwork, explanations of healthcare and other benefits, and training. All of these need to be accessible to all employees. This includes the many online forms that companies use to obtain necessary information from potential employees for employment and benefits. Many of these also include sensitive, private information, so it’s important that they can be completed independently.
Digitally accessible health insurance providers, payroll companies, and training materials are a must. Accessible training facilities, whether they are physical spaces or virtual platforms, are also necessary. Failure to provide accessible company resources is discrimination.
Training materials must be accessible – including videos, which need to have closed captioning. Make sure learning management systems where these videos live are accessible as well.
Intra-organizational networks and communication systems, including apps, websites, and other platforms, must be accessible as well. Excluding any person from participating in communications with their employer or an organization with which they wish to do business is discriminatory.
People with disabilities can perform many different jobs, some of which may require accommodations. Most accommodations are either free (such as simply providing information in alternative formats) or cost less than $500 and aren’t difficult to acquire. They might include specialized software, computer hardware, or simply a different approach to tasks. Often providing those accommodations for employees makes an organization more accessible to their customers as well. For example, providing ramps to enter the building allows both employees and customers an alternative way to access the facility. Providing digitally accessible web content allows both employees and customers with disabilities access to this material. Many accommodations appeal to people without disabilities, who simply find them convenient. For example, including captions on your online videos can increase views by up to 40%.
All types of customer interactions need to be accessible This includes any physical locations, online stores, and any printed or digital information that customers need to access. Support systems for products and services need to use accessible platforms. It’s also important to have mechanisms in place to address any accessibility issues that arise. Include an accessibility statement on your website, and a method by which customers can contact you if they find inaccessible features on the website. Failure to address any issues that arise often results in discrimination lawsuits.
What are the benefits of disability Inclusion?
According to the International Labor Organization, the benefits of disability inclusion are as follows:
Access to talent
By focusing on skills rather than stereotypes, you access an untapped pool of talent.
Employees with diverse experiences have different approaches to problem-solving.
Increased engagement and retention
Employees who feel included have higher levels of loyalty and enthusiasm. Even employees who don’t use accommodations see the company’s willingness to help every employee achieve success.
Customers value companies that show a real commitment to inclusion. Corporate social responsibility increases brand recognition and customer loyalty and has been shown to result in better financial performance.
Disability inclusion is a staple of accessibility culture
Organizations should create and maintain a corporate accessibility policy as a foundation for disability inclusion and accessibility culture. Accessibility culture is the practice of ensuring that disability inclusion is part of every aspect of a corporation’s practices and policies. It is the foundation of an inclusive and diverse atmosphere. The best way to achieve disability inclusion and accessibility culture is for those practices to originate from both the top-down and the bottom-up. This includes both executive buy-in and employee contributions. It also means every employee is responsible for making their content and tools accessible for everyone. Disability inclusion should not be a “bolt-on” feature, but something that starts at the core of an organization’s functions. A foundation of accessibility culture is what separates the truly inclusive corporations from the rest.
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If you’re ready to tackle disability inclusion in your organization, contact us. We can help with planning, implementing, and maintaining your inclusive practices.