Advocating for Disability Inclusion in the Workplace

Jan 16, 2017
Tagged with: Advocating for Disability Inclusion in the Workplace


How inclusive is your workplace? While there are laws in place to help protect people with disabilities from discrimination and exclusion in the workplace, the reality is that exclusion happens every day in the United States and worldwide. Companies need to be aware that not only is discrimination a legal violation, it shortchanges opportunities to stay competitive and innovative. 56 million people (19% of the population) in the United States have a disability, and ignoring those voices can result in missed business opportunities and goodwill from potential customers. People are living longer these days (and working longer), so disability inclusion will continue to be an issue that needs constant reevaluation and effort. So how can you advocate for disability inclusion in your workplace?

Understand the Benefits

Whether or not you’re in a leadership position at your company, understanding the benefits of disability inclusion is the first step to becoming an effective advocate. Businesses can reap immense benefits from including people with disabilities on the workforce. A fresh perspective, a stronger social culture, and another source of business innovation is something that people with a range of disabilities bring to the table– assets in any industry.

Insure that People with Disabilities are Part of the Diversity Policy

All companies should be committed to diversity—and they should be committed to including people with disabilities as part of their written policies on diversity. Bringing in perspectives from all demographics help companies see the bigger picture, retain better talent, and grow faster. Advocating for inclusion means making people with disabilities an equal part of the company diversity policy.

Include Everyone in Social and Professional Settings

Matt Glowacki, a Paralympian and entrepreneur, born without legs remembers some important lessons his doctor taught his father about giving Matt a chance to show what he could do:

“Wouldn’t it be great if every person you interact with every day, whether you did or didn’t know them, gave you the chance to surprise them in good ways?”

That’s an attitude to bring into the workplace when you’re advocating for disability inclusion. Give everyone a chance to be part of special projects, social outings, and make that attitude part of your company culture. 

Ensure Everyone is on Board

Having true inclusion in the workplace requires the cooperation of people at every level: executives, middle management, and everyone involved with day-to-day operations. Making disability inclusion part of the company culture may seem daunting, but it’s an important step in fully including everyone in the workplace. Inclusion benefits everyone, but getting the ball rolling can be met with some resistance. Ingrain positive inclusion in your company culture, you’ll likely see more positive attitudes, engagement, and productivity. 

Empower Self-Advocacy

Creating a safe space for employees to be self-advocates is an essential step in the inclusion process. Some people are afraid to speak up when they are excluded in the workplace. It’s important to empower those with disabilities in your organization to become self-advocates. Awareness of the challenges individuals face helps everyone in the workplace to understand the importance of inclusion and accommodation to make sure everyone is safe and happy on the job.

Author: Sarah Daren

  • bobl07

    Inclusion as a policy piece is slowly making it’s way into businesses. The best part is that we’ve only just begun to truly grasp it’s meaning.