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As diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) continues to take workplaces by storm we are starting to see a growing trend of adding another letter to the DEI acronym and that is A for accessibility.

Why Add in Accessibility to DEI?

Accessibility is an important part of the workplace and workforce and often one that sees a high unemployment number of those who are willing and wanting to work. In 2020, 17.9 percent of persons with disability were employed which is down from 19.3 percent in 2019. The total number of people with disabilities aged 16-64 in the United States is 33 million and of those only 18.5 million are employed (US Department of Labor). Additionally the National Autism Indicators Report by Drexel University, found that fewer than one in six autistic adults are full-time employees. However, the majority of those who are not working is not by choice since 77% who are unemployed stated that they want to work.

The hard thing with disabilities is 62% of employees who are disabled note that it is invisible and not easily seen or noted by the workplace.

Additionally, the majority of people with disabilities are keeping the status a secret with only 39% disclosing it to their manager and 21% to HR. When disabilities are invisible it is up to the employee to decide when, whether, and with whom to share their disability status. Employees have noted that they still fear when disclosing that they will endure teasing, changes in relationships, be perceived as lazy or less capable and their status affecting their career as reasons to not disclose. This showcases the need for companies to ensure they are including accessibility into their plans to ensure employees feel comfortable coming forward and that they will not be discriminated against.

Below you can watch a quick clip of Craig Leen, Circa Board member, former Direct of OFCCP, and partner at K&L Gates as he discusses the importance of adding accessibility to DEI.

Watch Craig’s full discussion on Strategies for Workplace Allies and Supporting Employees with Invisible Disabilities.

Benefits of Accessibility

Accessibility brings a ton of benefits both direct and indirect to employees in your workplace. This provides the opportunity to not only provide a more open workplace but one where employees feel comfortable to ask for accommodations. Additionally, companies should keep in mind that 56% of employers have said that accommodations needed by their employees cost absolutely nothing and 39% of employers experienced a one-time cost for an accommodation.

Direct benefits of accessibility include retaining valuable employees, increase in productivity, increase in attendance, increase in diversity and savings from compensation & other insurance costs. Indirect benefits that employers saw included improved interactions with co-workers, company morale, company productivity, interactions with customers and overall company attendance. These benefits alone should showcase the need for adding A to your DEI strategy.

Tips for Adding Accessibility into the Workplace

When getting started with adding accessibility to your DEI strategy, a lot of times it can be hard to figure out where to start or how to showcase your company’s support of accessibility. Check out some easy tips of where you can get started to add accessibility into the workplace.

  • Adding Accessibility into the Hiring Process. Employers can look into ways to create transparency around accommodation requests on the career site and during the application & onboarding process. This includes adding in a statement about accessibility onto each job posting demonstrating the commitment to accommodation can be helpful to showcase your company. Additionally, making sure you have the availability to adjust your hiring process to accommodate applicants with disabilities to ensure they are bringing their best self forward and showcasing the hard and soft skills that make them a suitable candidate for the position.
  • Building Accessibility into the Culture. Offering employee resource groups, mentor programs, and developing an accommodation policy are ways to develop a disability inclusive culture. Employers can also look at offering flexible workdays, a fragrance-free work environment, and other workplace enhancements that could build a more inclusive work culture.
  • Don’t Forget to Focus on Digital Accessibility. Make sure that all software and websites that employees need to use do not have a barrier to usability so that all users have equal access to them. This also includes looking at your onboarding process and making sure all training videos and items prepared for the process are accessible and that all videos include subtitles as well.
  • Neurodiversity in the Workplace. People with neurocognitive disabilities have talents, perspectives and skills that can be beneficial in many work environments. However, accommodations will need to be made and could include image-based task lists, preparing employees in advance of drastic schedule changes, headphone use to prevent auditory overstimulation, and written or recorded instructions. Work with managers and your talent acquisition team to train on how to work with and the benefits to hiring neurodiverse individuals.

When looking to update or add A to you DEI plan watch our Creating & Implementing a DEI Strategy on-demand webinar or download our free Creating & Implementing a DEI Strategy whitepaper for tips and best practices to help you through the process.

Also, register for our upcoming webinar on October 20, 2021 focused on Understanding Neurodiversity & Building an Inclusive Work Environment.

Author

Katie Saba
Product Marketing Manager
Circa
Katie Saba is a Product Marketing Manager at Circa. Based on her conversations and research, Katie produces webinars and writes articles on diversity and other employment-related topics to guide employers, employees and job seekers in their professional endeavors.

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