Published December 2016
The win-win of disability inclusion
Globally, there are over one billion people with disabilities. They are now more active in our society than ever before. Yet employment rates are low and many barriers to work still exist.
Explore this InfoStory to find out why employing people with disabilities makes good business sense for private companies, and how you can help promote inclusion.
Everybody gains from disability inclusion
For the one billion women and men with disabilities, inclusion in the labour market, and in society in general, requires the breaking down of existing barriers.
Companies have greater opportunities than ever before to bring in people with disabilities, as customers and clients, but also as employees and managers. By including people with disabilities, companies, individuals and society at large all win.
How does your brain think about disability?
The benefits of inclusive workplaces
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.
Customers value companies that show a real commitment towards inclusion.
Benefits for everyone
Everyone benefits from an inclusive workplace, not just those with a disability.
Employing people with disabilities makes good business sense
Employers speak for themselves
All the company's corporate areas and business units agree that the key to equal opportunities is to make the presence of employees with disabilities a normality at the company.
At IBM we recognize people as central to business success. (…) By maximizing the previously untapped potential that people with disabilities bring to the workplace, we walk the talk of embracing people of all different abilities.
At Sodexo, we believe with everyone on board, committed to eliminating the misconceptions and biases that hold people with disabilities back, and focused on changing perspectives and raising awareness, everything is possible.
Starting your disability inclusion journey
Disability inclusion needs top-level backing if it’s going to become company policy.
A statement from the CEO can be incredibly powerful, so make sure it’s seen by all employees, shareholders and stakeholders.
Analyse every step of your recruitment process to make sure there are no barriers for people with disabilities and that everyone involved is properly trained.
Adverts for jobs and apprenticeships should also make it clear that you’ll provide reasonable adjustments for interviews and the job itself, if needed.
An accessibility audit of your company is a good way to start making your premises and services (like your website) more accessible.
Make sure any new construction work complies with accessibility standards and is part of your occupational health and safety plans.
You should be prepared to make reasonable adjustments to the workplace. These could include modifying machinery and equipment, or the content of the job itself. You might also need to adjust working hours, work organization and the work environment.
Learn more about reasonable adjustments.
Lots of organizations out there can provide support with job matching, disability awareness training or expertise on accessibility or on-the-job support.
Consider joining national business and disability networks or employers' federations – peer support is very helpful.
Disability awareness training makes employees more confident about communicating with disabled people – and your working environment more welcoming as a result.
Disability awareness should also be included in all diversity training. Bear in mind that persons with disabilities are a heterogeneous group, including with regard to gender identity, ethnic diversity and sexual orientation.
Taking disability inclusion further
Put it in writing
Prove you’re committed to disability inclusion by making it company policy. This can be a specific policy or the inclusion of disability as part of more general policies on anti-discrimination, diversity or human rights.
Equal opportunities for all
Employing disabled workers is just the first step. As for all employees, you need to make sure disabled employees have access to all training and career progression activities.
Confidential staff satisfaction surveys are a good way to check how employees with disabilities are doing compared to non-disabled colleagues. Disaggregation of data by sex will help identify different impacts on women with disabilities as compared to men with disabilities.
Plan for every eventuality
Someone in your business could acquire a disability or mental health condition while working for you. A good disability management/return-to-work programme can reduce absenteeism rates and turnover of staff. There are lots of organizations that can help you establish programmes like this.
Think outside the business
Large companies in particular can contribute to disability inclusion by asking their suppliers to comply with disability legislation. You can also explore buying products and services from businesses that promote the employment of persons with disabilities and have disability inclusion practices in place.
Many large companies have employee networks and some have disabled employee networks, including both disabled and non-disabled employees. These networks can be a valuable resource for promoting disability inclusion.
Tell others what you're doing
Make sure everyone knows about your inclusion initiatives. Use your website, newsletters and other channels to shout about your achievements, including your corporate sustainability report if you publish one.
Get help from around the world
The International Labour Organization (ILO) has been capitalizing on the momentum of disability inclusion through the ILO Global Business and Disability Network (GBDN).
GBDN consists of multinational enterprises, employers’ organizations, national business and disability networks, civil society organizations and academia. Its company members have signed the GBDN Charter and thereby commit to its ten disability inclusion principles.
Making it easier for companies to hire people with disabilities
In many countries, companies that are willing to employ persons with disabilities encounter barriers which often make it almost impossible to provide jobs to disabled people.
How can different governments and social partners make it easier for companies to hire disabled people?
Finally, inclusion is everyone's responsibility
There are lots of ways to promote inclusion in the workplace. Smart companies have already started, and are enjoying more successful and sustainable businesses as a result. Many of these share their experiences with other companies, so they too can become more diverse.
At the same time, there is a role for non-business stakeholders to create a more enabling environment for disability inclusion. After all, making the workplace more inclusive is everyone’s responsibility.