October is National Disability Employment Month and the Ontario Disability Employment Network (ODEN) is raising awareness about the many benefits of having a diverse and inclusive workforce.
Jennifer Jerrett, Community Engagement Specialist at Community Living Huntsville understands the importance of hiring people with disabilities, not only to be a good corporate citizen but also to build a sustainable, profitable business.
For disability-inclusive businesses, profit margins are 30% higher and revenue increases 28%, according to research by Accenture.
Ample research shows connecting disability inclusion to broader business objectives and the company mission is vital for continued growth and success, but a new study found most companies don’t even know how many people in their workforce have a disability.
This means that, with disability on the rise as the population ages, many businesses are missing crucial data they need to strategically plan for prospering by creating an inclusive culture.
“This makes the education and awareness-raising that happens during National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) vital for understanding disability inclusion connections to success,” affirms Jeannette Campbell, CEO of the Ontario Disability Employment Network (ODEN).
NDEAM is an annual October campaign promoting disability inclusion in business and the workplace. NDEAM began in the U.S. following World War Two. Here in Canada, it’s being recognized in more communities across the country each year.
“The findings of the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) study are somewhat frustrating,” says Campbell, “but also unsurprising. They’re further evidence there’s still a major lack of disability awareness despite the conversation about disability-inclusive hiring has been going on for decades.”
Campbell is referring to a new international study published in May by BCG titled, Your Workforce Includes People with Disabilities: Does Your People Strategy?
Most businesses reported only 4% to 7% of their employees have a disability.
The survey found, however, that in actuality, 25% of employees “have a disability or health condition that limits a major life activity.”
BCG surveyed 28,000 employees in 16 countries.
“Too many businesses are still missing out on talent and opportunities. The lack of awareness creates attitudinal barriers that hinder businesses — and the communities they serve — from experiencing the benefits of disability inclusion and innovation,” Campbell says.
“The findings of the BCG study are also a sign that while progress is being made, there’s still a general lack of real commitment to disability inclusion in business and employment. Awareness and commitment go together. If you’re committed to something, you put all your effort into it, including learning everything you can about it.”
Businesses committed to disability inclusion make sure they reflect the communities they serve, Campbell points out.
“That’s why it’s vital to make the disability inclusion connection on all its levels. There’s an integral, multi-faceted relationship between disability inclusion, and employment and business success for everyone involved.”
On one level, Campbell explains, it’s about understanding the benefits of disability inclusion; knowing how to make connections with community-based employment service providers and the disability talent pool; understanding the need for and importance of accessibility; understanding that disability is diverse and not always visible; and realizing why disability needs to be part of the DEI conversation.
There are also links to profitability, innovation, overall business success and employee retention, she notes.
“Businesses that don’t fully embrace disability inclusion and the change it’s driving; that don’t make all the connections, miss market opportunities and alienate a growing consumer market. Overall, they won’t be well positioned for continued success,” Campbell emphasizes.
People who have a disability are the world’s largest minority group, and it’s growing. A 2022 World Health Organization report notes the number has increased to 16% from 15% of the world’s population, or about 1.3 billion people.
Currently, 6.2 million Canadians have a disability, or about 22% of the population. By around 2035, that number is expected to reach 25% as the population ages.
This increasing disability means the disability consumer market is growing. Consumer spending by Canadians who have a disability is on the rise. By 2030, it will reach $316 billion, up from $165 billion in 2017.
On October 24, ODEN will release a new episode of its You Can’t Spell Inclusion Without a D podcast, launching an occasional series called Making the Journey. It’s a series of one-on-one conversations with business leaders who’ve successfully made the disability-inclusive hiring journey in their companies. The first episode is a fireside chat with Joe Hoffer. He is a partner in the London, ON, law firm, Cohen Highley LLP. The firm has been a disability-inclusive employer for several years, and sets an example for other businesses in Southwestern Ontario to follow.
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