There are 1.5 billion persons with disabilities on this planet and of those, only 19.1 percent are employed. As a united group, we still struggle to create a world that is accepting and accessible for the diverse ability community.
In the past several years, we’ve been fortunate enough to see more open discussions about racial and gender inequality and the need for change in our society and workplace. But even with this increased chatter, some marginalized communities are being forgotten. According to The Valuable 500, only three percent of articles discussing diversity published in 2019 and 2020 included disability.
This year’s National Disability Employment Awareness Month theme centers around adding disability to the equity equation. The first step to broadening the conversion is allyship. Here is where to start:
Let me guess when you were little your grown-ups taught you that it’s rude to stare at a person in a wheelchair at the grocery store. It’s alright if you answered yes because mine certainly did and I’d venture to say that this is true for a lot of us.
Although it’s done with good intentions, this teaching has one major flaw – it removes all curiosity from learning about those with diverse experiences and abilities. Because as children if we are taught to not be curious, we grow up to ignore, which then closes the door for the able-bodied community to understand the impact of our inaccessible world and workplaces.
Be Open and Understanding
Entering the employment industry as a person with a disability is extremely daunting. I grew up learning and hearing that people won’t accept me and advocating and fighting for myself will never end. Another study by Valuable 500 found that between 11 and 15 percent of companies are made up of people with disabilities — and those diverse abilities could be unknown to leadership within that organization, with 80 percent of disabilities being invisible.
Shortly after I started interviewing for my first marketing job, I learned that I was being judged unfairly for my disability. Most employees with disabilities won’t speak up because of past experiences like mine. By educating ourselves and learning about the vast variety of different disabilities and experiences, we can open a dialog for everyone that will create an environment of trust and support in the workplace. Without this, we will continue to miss the mark on a fully accessible society.
It’s Time For Us All to Think About Accessibility
The biggest challenge that people with disabilities face is living in a world that is not made for us. Luckily, technology gives us the unique opportunity to change this, but in many cases, we are still left behind.
The online world has enabled part of the disabled community to consume content freely but that’s just the first step. It’s up to us to make sure that the content marketing materials we are creating can be accessed by the masses. Whether it’s a website, blog, article, podcast, video or social media post, make sure what you’re sharing online is accessible by adding closed captioning on audio files, using alt text to describe images and enabling web accessibility solutions like accessiBe.
Last but not least, get involved. We are way overdue for accessibility and acceptance to become our universal standard.
Interested in learning more about how you can build a welcoming workplace? JAN provides free, confidential technical assistance about job accommodations and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Ready to work for a team that embraces, values, and celebrates individuals with diverse abilities? Check out our open positions.