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Here’s why it’s important to see disability as diversity in the workplace

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Here’s why it’s important to see disability as diversity in the workplace

Throughout the past 60 years, the meaning of the phrase, “diversity in the workplace,” has significantly evolved. Though its origins stem from responses to the civil rights movement, over the past few decades diversity in the workplace has progressed not only to include race and gender, but other identity groups, such as religious, ethnic, and LGTBQ communities.

With each of these groups, research has proven that focusing on inclusion is not only the right thing to do, but it is also good for a company’s bottom line. This is no less true for disability inclusion in the workplace and is one of the primary reasons why disability should be emphasized as an aspect of business diversity.

What are the primary business benefits of disability inclusion in the workplace?

A myriad of research supports the fact that successful disability inclusion strategies result in bottom-line benefits that show return on investment (ROI) for businesses. As the nation’s largest minority group, (1 in 4 Americans have disabilities) people with disabilities have significant buying power.

In 2018, the American Institutes for Research (AIR) released a report on the purchasing power of people with disabilities, revealing that discretionary income for working-age people with disabilities is around $21 billion. This is greater than that of African-American and Hispanic market segments combined. By focusing on hiring and retaining people with disabilities and creating inclusive work environments, employers open up possibilities to connect with an often-overlooked market segment and ultimately increase revenue.

More specifically, employers who ensure disability inclusion is an aspect of their diversity initiatives consistently yield the following benefits:

  • Access to a broader talent pool with diverse skills and valuable new perspectives for problem-solving
  • Higher retention rates and lower absenteeism rates among employees with disabilities
  • Increased work ethic and higher work quality
  • Improved customer service and overall access to a larger consumer base as a result of understanding the needs of customers with disabilities
  • Enhanced overall staff morale and disability awareness
  • Greater product innovation
  • Stronger brand reputation, as research proves Americans view companies who hire people with disabilities more favorably

What are Businesses doing to Improve Disability Inclusion in the Workplace?

While many employers acknowledge the benefits of disability inclusion, and would even consider themselves diverse, quite often they dismiss or delay implementing inclusive practices. Recent initiatives, such as The Valuable 500, aim to address the disparities in disability employment rates by focusing on internal and external strategies to ensure improved disability inclusion in the workplace.

Here are a few common practices:

  • Ensuring that disability inclusion is a board/executive leadership priority
  • Making employees, customers, and partners aware of the company’s commitments to disability inclusion
  • Providing disability inclusion trainings for staff and managers
  • Increasing access within the company, including the physical environment, hiring process, web and media, communication systems, and more
  • Streamlining processes for reasonable accommodations requests
  • Forming disability Employee Resource Groups (ERGs)
  • Creating appropriate and collaborative evaluation methods
  • Developing partnerships with disability-serving organizations and other thought leaders in effective disability inclusion

Businesses that focus strategically on disability inclusion reap positive benefits. To learn more about how to make disability inclusion a diversity priority, contact the CareerCircle team at

Contributions to this blog were made by Andraéa LaVant of Solutions Marketing Group.