October is National Disability Employment Awareness month.
If your organization has taken on DEI work, yet disability inclusion is not a part of the strategy, then your inclusion work is falling through the cracks.
Diversity Crew Partner, Montreece Hardy provides direction and information on how organizations can solve for the disability inclusion gap.
As someone who lives with blindness for the past 4 years, my lived experiences have given me a vast working knowledge of DEI focused on Accessibility, and Disability Inclusion. The following is a brief introduction to the importance of disability inclusion in the workplace along with a simplified method any leader can immediately implement.
The goal is not to over-simplify the process of disability inclusion, but rather to demystify disability inclusion and encourage mindset shift and more communication for a win-win situation for everyone.
Did you know, according to Accenture, global research shows that employees with disabilities are 60% more likely to feel excluded in the workplace compared with colleagues without disabilities.
Part of the reasoning behind this failure is individual unconscious biases about working with people with disabilities. My personal experience is proof that.
Often, people are befuddled in conversing with me, assuming I am not able to work efficiently. There is a lack of understanding of how a person living with blindness can work on a computer, doing tasks that are assumed to be reserved for those who are fully sighted.
Another point of failure is belief in the myth that workplace accommodations and accessibility for people living with disabilities are expensive and not worth the fiscal investment. The truth that debunks this myth is that more often, the cost for improving workplace digital accessibility and other accommodations is $0-$500 depending on employee needs.
So, what can be done to help employees with disabilities feel more included? Allow me to share my 3-2-1 quick method to authentically encourage disability inclusion. Here are 3 do’s and don’ts, 2 key terms, and 1 intentional step.
- DON’T be afraid – DO be aware.
- The key to inclusion is asking questions and understanding the language used in the spectrum of experience for those living with disability. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, and don’t be afraid to be wrong. Tools such as Diversity Crew’s DEI Dictionary and accessibility courses are also available to help close disability knowledge gaps in the workplace.
- DON’T be biased – DO be a builder.
- Research shows that the more a leader understands their personal unconscious biases and seek learning opportunities from organic conversations with people living with disabilities, the more they are effectively able to BUILD a psychologically safe work environment and trustworthy relationships with job candidates and employees who live with disabilities.
- DON’T lead from a limited mindset – DO lead from a growth mindset.
- A not-so-obvious example of what limited mindset looks like in practice is sympathy, pity, or fear of how to engage a colleague or employee living with a disability. Growth mindset, on the contrary, looks like empathizing and understanding they just work differently from you, and being open to ask questions about if and how you can help them be successful in their work.
The two key terms to note here are: Empathy and Growth Mindset. With both working hand-in-hand, it creates capacity for business leaders and employees to chip away at their unconscious biases and preconceived notions about working with people living with disability. Both are imperative for authentically creating psychologically safe environments for employees and emerging leaders with disabilities to participate in (and lead) conversations speaking to the financial and ethical benefits of accessibility for all business stakeholders.
Your one intentional action step is this: Listen. Inclusive leadership begins with listening, not to respond but to genuinely understand and empathize with the perspectives of those living with disability. A best practice is setting up listening groups as opportunities for the voices of employees with disabilities to be seen, heard, and supported.
To learn more about increasing disability inclusion in your organization or have one of our accessibility inclusion experts work with your organization, visit www.LetsGo@DiversityCrew.com today!
About the Author:
Montreece specializes in the development of D&IA written and verbal communication focused on understanding Disability and Accessibility, workplace accommodations, and WCAG 2.1 compliance. Her lived experience fuel her passion for building a more empathetic, inclusive and accessible future for disabled professionals. She is purposed with encouraging leadership and allyship across ERGs and industries with concrete communications, behaviors, actions, and measurements for success.