Disability: A Diversity Strategy that Goes Beyond Compliance
Katherine McCary, CEO, DC Metro Business Leadership Network
Managing Partner, C5 Consulting, LLC
Disability is getting more and more play in corporations today as a result of the OFCCP changes to Section 503 and VEVRAA. But as federal contractors and subcontractors work to address the new reporting requirements and challenges, the discussions that corporations should also be having today at the senior leader level include: “How can we attract and retain qualified employees with disabilities (Individuals with Disabilities, or IWDs) to positively impact our bottom line?’ and “How do we change culture throughout the corporation to become more disability friendly?”
Corporations, small, medium and large, and the US Business Leadership Network, have been focused on disability inclusion from a marketplace and workforce diversity initiative. Put simply, these employers “get it” and have been recognized as leaders in their disability diversity journey. These companies would openly tell you that they are far from perfect in their journey but they have been able to make the connection to ROI from disability diversity, just as any other diversity dimension must do to be successful.
Did you know?
- Individuals with disabilities are the largest minority population of more than 65 million Americans, 20 million of working age
- Business that recognize the value of diversity will benefit by expanding diversity to include people with disabilities
- This is a population that anyone can join at any time; only 18% are born with a disability; 82% of all disabilities are acquired with age, illness, accidents or war
- There is no one pipeline for this talent pool; many IWD job seekers do not rely on vocational rehabilitation services for job placement.
- Returning veterans (disabled and non-disabled) expect to reenter the workforce
- 40-45% of college graduates with disabilities are unemployed
- As customers they have an annual buying power of $3 trillion
- 88% of Americans prefer to give their business to employers who hire people with disabilities
- Individuals with disabilities are qualified and want to work and there is a lack of skilled and qualified workers today in the US
- The expanded definition of disability under the ADAAA expands this population.
In reviewing these statistics, it is not surprising that disability inclusion really impacts all of us. We either have a disability ourselves (or may acquire one as we age) or know someone who does- family, friend, neighbor, or co-worker. Disability inclusion can be a complicated journey, since disability, both apparent and non-apparent, is more diverse a population that any other diversity dimension. Corporate culture plays a major role in the journey to full inclusion. What can HR, D&I or an AA/EEO practitioner do to play an integral leadership role in this new diversity landscape?
One of the best practices for employers to embrace is peer-to-peer dialog, sharing mutual challenges, opportunities and successes. The Business Leadership Network is the only business-led disability organization whose mission is to change attitudes and address concerns of businesses through training, education and resources so that employers learn how to proactively include people with disabilities in the workforce, marketplace and supplier chain.
The BLN strives to meet member (and non-member) HR, D&I and EEO/AA practitioner needs in the disability arena, from a business perspective.
An added bonus for SPHR and PHR, these programs all offer HRCI continuing credits and discounted membership rates are offered for SHRM and ILG members.