The global talent shortage isn’t easing up anytime soon. A recent Korn Ferry report estimates that by 2030, more than 85 million jobs could go unfilled. As business leaders focus on how to attract and retain the best talent, they’d do well to consider the often untapped community of people with disabilities. One-third of households in the U.S. include people with disabilities, representing an opportunity for organizations committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion.
What can businesses do during National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) — and all year long — to make sure this community not only has equal access to employment, but a workplace where they can thrive throughout their careers? Here are four ideas to help you get started.
1. Partner with inclusion organizations to hire people with disabilities
A number of platforms exist to connect you with people with disabilities who are seeking work.
- Disability:IN. The NextGen Leader program, sponsored by Disability:IN, matches corporate mentors with college students and recent graduates with disabilities.
- Inclusively. This workforce inclusion platform connects job seekers with disabilities with employers who are committed to creating a truly diverse and inclusive workforce.
- Blind Institute of Technology. BIT partners with employers to provide job placement and technical training for people with disabilities. It also offers auditing services to help you identify online accessibility gaps and create solutions.
Help all employees succeed
Learn how Salesforce has designed workforce programs with the disability community in mind, and bring these ideas to your organization.
2. Invest in employee development programs
Build a culture of inclusion and equity in the workplace by promoting education and understanding.
- Uptimize. This e-learning provider advises and trains companies on how to work with neurodiverse people. It offers tools to help you understand and appreciate people who think in different ways, and equips managers with critical strategies to embed neuroinclusive practices at every level.
- Build your own program. Consider developing in-house training for people with disabilities. For example, Salesforce’s Workforce Navigators program offers career development for Trailblazers with disabilities, including certified Salesforce admin training and a supplemental curriculum for assistive technology users.
- Continuous learning. When all employees are committed to learning about disability, it instills allyship into your organization’s DNA and makes those with disabilities feel supported.
3. Create an inclusive work environment
Although the advent of remote work has resulted in record levels of employment for people with disabilities, the community has traditionally been chronically unemployed due to physical barriers, inaccessible spaces, and lack of support. As organizations move forward with their return-to-work plans, it’s critical that accessible and inclusive practices remain top of mind.
- Allow for flexible work. Continue to offer a remote work option to make sure the community has access to greater employment and job development opportunities.
- Create spaces for people with disabilities, allies, and caretakers. Host employee resource or equality groups, and start dedicated communication channels on platforms such as Slack, Teams, and Zoom to promote community among your workforce.
- Collect self-ID metrics. Consider offering self-ID, a voluntary form provided by the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, and invite employees to self-identify. This will help ensure you’re creating and sustaining a diverse and inclusive workplace, and shaping policies and benefits to support people with disabilities.
- Provide ample accommodations. Employees with disabilities may require more flexible schedules, time for health-related appointments, mental health days, and other arrangements. Create policies with this in mind, and be open to feedback.
Disability etiquette do’s and don’ts
Learn how to respectfully interact with people with disabilities with this handy guide.
4. Make communications accessible to all
Accessible communication is easy to understand and available in multiple formats so everyone has equal access. Content should address common barriers to physical and neurological accessibility. Make sure you:
- Include image alt text in digital graphics to describe the content. People with visual impairments often use screen readers, which convey only text-based content.
- Include subtitles or transcripts in audio and video files. People who are deaf or hard of hearing can’t follow a video without subtitles, or get content from an audio file without a transcript.
- Design web pages that don’t require a mouse or other pointing device to navigate. Many users with motor disabilities rely on a keyboard for website navigation.
- Present content in multiple formats. Neurodivergent individuals may relate better to video tutorials than text-based instructions, or vice versa.
- Convey meaning with more than color. Use accompanying text indicators to give blind and color-blind users the same opportunity to receive your message as everyone else.
Make NDEAM insights last all year
The disability community is large and diverse — and present in every target demographic. By focusing on hiring more people with disabilities, we can work toward building a more accessible and inclusive future.
Disability rights are civil rights
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects people with disabilities in many areas, including employment.