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Business as a Platform for Change

Disability Employment Awareness: The Journey To Equal Access

October 2020 brings us the 75th year of Disability Employment Awareness Month (DEAM).

Catherine Nichols is senior director of Accessibility Programs in the Office of Accessibility at Salesforce. She’s also vice president of the employee resource group, Abilityforce.

At Salesforce, Inclusion is an important part of our workplace culture. Over the past few years, more of the world has started to adopt and recognize this month. As such, we have decided to honor a globally inclusive celebration, Disability Employment Awareness Month.

“It’s a time of hot chocolatey mornings, and toasty marshmallow evenings, and, best of all, leaping into leaves!” — Winnie the Pooh

Leaves are starting to fall, the weather is getting cooler, and socially distanced lines for a pumpkin spice latte are growing. Pretty soon no matter what side of the debate you are on, it will be time for candy corn.

That means October is here, bringing with it the monumental 75th year of Disability Employment Awareness Month (DEAM) and this year’s theme “Increasing Access and Opportunity.” We take this time to celebrate the contributions people with disabilities have made to the workforce as well as to educate and raise awareness on employment issues both nationally, and more recently,  globally.

Reduce the employment gap

If you search online for the unemployment statistics of people with disabilities, the results are staggering.

Around the world there are many examples, here are a few:

Globally

In developing countries, 80% to 90% of persons with disabilities of working age are unemployed

Asia and the Pacific

The unemployment rate of persons with disabilities is usually double that of the general population and often as high as 80% or more.

European Union

Persons with disabilities are two to three times more likely to be unemployed than others.

Latin America and the Caribbean

About 80-90% of persons with disabilities are unemployed or outside the workforce.

North America

United States — The unemployment rates for the disability community are twice that of the nondisabled population and since the beginning of the pandemic in March, over 1 million people with disabilities have lost their jobs.

Canada — The unemployment rate for persons with disabilities is 26%, over five times higher than the 5% rate for persons without disabilities.

Mexico — 14% of persons with disabilities who are working receive no pay, and another 22.6% receive less than the minimum wage.

We need to build inclusive workplaces and programs that bring in talent, and also provide equal access to the tools to help advance those careers.

Our Office of Accessibility has launched a partnership with the Blind Institute of Technology (BIT) to support their Salesforce Administration Certification Prep Course by providing certification and recertification vouchers along with a grant to fund on the job training salaries. This program’s goal is to provide the disability community with the opportunity to gain skills for meaningful employment whether at Salesforce or anywhere else.

There are creative ways companies can help advance these efforts too. As part of Disability Employment Awareness Month activities, the U.S. Department of Labor has shared ideas to help kickstart inspiration. At Salesforce, we encourage our teams to complete our, Get Started with Accessibility Trail and we invite you to join us!

Given these statistics, companies who work to improve their disability inclusion efforts are four times more likely than others to have total shareholder returns that outperform those of their peers. 

It’s critical companies work together to close the gap on the unemployment rate for people with disabilities. The workforce should accurately represent the wider community. It makes the world a better place and it’s just good for business.

Let’s keep the conversation going

The road to equality and inclusion for people with disabilities is a journey and we know there is more work to be done. 

As we build a more inclusive and accessible world for all, we’re interested in opportunities to highlight the community, our employees, customers, partners, and innovative technology. If you’d like to partner with us, follow our new Twitter handle, @SalesforceA11y and read how we’re learning to build and implement web accessibility and what your business can do.

Take action

  • Read about the commitments we’ve made as part of The Valuable 500 pledge and have your CEO sign, putting disability inclusion on your business leadership agenda. 
  • Consider taking the Disability Equality Index (DEI) survey, if your company doesn’t already do so. The DEI helps companies analyze their environment, identify opportunities, and leverage disability inclusion as a competitive advantage.
  • If your company offers self-ID, consider participating. This helps companies ensure they are creating and sustaining a diverse and inclusive workplace as well as shaping policies and benefits to support people with disabilities.

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