U.S. Firms Slowly Getting Better At Disability Inclusion

The Disability Equality Index (DEI) in the U.S. has revealed 126 out of 145 companies scored a 100 rating when it came to the inclusion of people with disabilities. These companies account for 7.8 million employees in the U.S.

The Index which surveys Fortune 1000 corporations and Am Law 100 is a joint initiative between American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) and the U.S. Business Leadership Network (USBLN). The index measures key performance indicators such as organizational culture, leadership, accessibility, employment, community engagement, support services and supplier diversity.

The good news is 94% of DEI companies reported having a senior executive who is internally recognized as being a person with a disability and/or as an ally for people with disabilities.

Nearly three-quarters of DEI companies had expenditures with certified disability-owned businesses and certified disabled veteran-owned businesses.

Jill Houghton, president and CEO of U.S. Business Leadership Network, said that companies’ participation in the DEI demonstrated their commitment to being inclusive to people with disabilities across all sectors of business.

“It’s important they build an inclusive culture where talent with disabilities can be themselves. Firms are building cross-functional teams that represent different parts of the organization and identifying several leaders to work with cross-functional teams by looking at their culture and leadership, employment practices and diversity.”

Helena Berger, president of the American Association of People with Disabilities, argued that it was absolutely critical that the CEO or the top C-suite executives are driving the inclusion agenda.

“There are still attitudinal barriers present. People have to start working with people with disabilities. For us, that is the toughest nut to crack. The Americans with Disabilities Act is great but it’s hard to legislate attitudes.”

In 2017, 18.7% of persons with a disability were employed, according to the U.S. Department of Labor statistics. The unemployment rate for people with disabilities was stuck around 10.5% in 2016 and it was a similar figure in 2015, indicating that the employment prospects have remained static for people with disabilities.

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