July 2021 marked the 21st annual Disability Pride Month. July 26, 1990 became known as Disability Independence Day, as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed. The ADA provides protection from employment discrimination as well as better access to goods, services, and communications for people with disabilities and prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities. While progress has been made over the last 31 years, there is still much room for improvement as we look at how we engage differently abled co-workers and employees.
As CSR professionals work to advance DEI, it is important to consider the disabled and differently abled community. While some people are comfortable talking in-depth about what workplace considerations are important to them, others may not but will appreciate the effort to be inclusive.
This community is diverse within itself and includes:
- Visible disabilities where individuals utilize things like mobility aids, hearing aids, or prosthetic limbs
- Invisible disabilities such as chronic pain, epilepsy, or sleep disorders
- Other differences that an individual may or may not consider a disability such as neurodiversity, speech disorders, or learning disorders
Inclusivity can start with basic ADA compliance, state and local regulations, and office and technology accessibility. It grows into an environment that makes everyone feel accepted, safe, and appreciated. Here are some tips to include disabled and differently abled people in your DEI plan!
- Start a Disabled/Differently Abled ERG and include them in DEI conversations
- Ensure your volunteer activities are inclusive for all abilities
- Work to make it safe for employees to disclose their disabilities
- Be flexible. Employees may have vital mid-day doctor appointments or days where they need to work from home to manage their physical and/or mental health. Work with them to find the best balance of work and health.
- Think outside the box, especially to consider employees who may have invisible disabilities. Allowing headphones may be a relief to someone with a sensory processing disorder. Stim toys may make someone with ADHD or autism comfortable. An inclusive dress code could make a difference to someone with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome who can’t wear heels.
Most importantly, educate yourself! Here are some resources to learn from and utilize when engaging employees, nonprofit partners, and consumers:
- Learn about barriers and opportunities to enhance accessibility in U.S. elections.
- Read about “How heat waves, climate change put people with disabilities at risk.”
- Hear from the Ford Foundation on “How funders can make disability visible.”
- Check out RespectAbility’s Inclusive Philanthropy Toolkit.
- See how companies score on the Disability Equality Index.
- Review the Access Guide, an introductory resource to digital accessibility to help understand WCAG 2.1 (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines).
- Strive to create accessible videos.
- Plan for accessible meetings and events, both in-person and virtual.