Why and how a business should prioritise disability inclusion

- January 17, 2023 3 MIN READ


There’s much public fanfare over inclusivity nowadays, which should be celebrated. However, research from Melbourne University came to a shocking conclusion. Despite the lip-service to inclusivity and diversity, the proportion of disabled people included in the workforce has barely changed in decades, writes disability advocate Lisa Cox.

Given that nearly one in five Australians will deal with a disability at some point in their lives, this is a shocking idea. Yet, there are good reasons that this should change, and change today.

Why a business should prioritise disability inclusion

Firstly, let’s take a look at why businesses should prioritise disability inclusion:

It’s socially responsible

Did you really get into business hoping to do the wrong things in life? Ethics are a huge part of who we are as individuals and what our companies are as businesses. Including people with disabilities ought to be seen as a clear ethical and moral choice – it’s obviously the right thing to do.

It’s profitable

Businesses still need to pay the bills, and ‘social responsibility’ alone isn’t always enough. Research by the consulting firm Accenture shows that companies that prioritise disability inclusion make twice the sales that competitors who don’t prioritise inclusion do. They also found that they made over four times the profit that those competitors made!

You’ve probably heard about the ‘costs of disability inclusion’, but this figure should make it obvious – the upside is much, much bigger than any potential downside.

Young woman with prosthetic arm working at desk on laptop

It gives you access to a bigger talent pool

Having a disability doesn’t mean that you’re not capable of doing a job and doing it well. The assumption that disability equals inability needs to stop. In fact, companies that prioritise inclusion come to realise that they can access a huge range of skills and talents that their competitors can’t; they also have the advantage of a more diverse talent portfolio in-house.

How should business go about including people with disabilities?

There are many ways that businesses can better include people with disabilities some of the simplest measures include:

Finding out what people with disabilities need

You see, people with disabilities aren’t a homogenous group. A person with visual difficulties needs different support from someone with mobility issues and, in turn, they need different support from somebody with ADHD.

Empowering your existing workforce to be inclusive

Managers need to be able to choose to hire people with disabilities and trust in their own abilities to make any adjustments as needed.

Everyone needs to understand the bottom-line benefits of inclusivity and to be able to offer their input and support in the process as needed. Offer training where necessary and encourage learning.

Using inclusive language and communications

If you want people to feel genuinely included, you need to use their language and make sure that the words you use aren’t, accidentally, leading them to feel excluded.

One of the easiest exercises for any truly inclusive business is to revisit its policies, marketing material, etc., and to ensure that the language and materials are properly inclusive. One of the best ways to do this is to consult with people who have disabilities when you are creating the content.

Blind woman using smartphone in workplace

Seek feedback on your efforts

Don’t sit around patting yourselves on the back for the work that you’ve done. Ask people with disabilities what their impressions are and how you can become more inclusive.

Inclusion is a long-term incremental process of improvements; you can’t just wave a magic wand and be ‘inclusive’. And the only way to measure your success is to ask.

Promote people with disabilities

This ought to be obvious but if you really want to be inclusive, that needs to be reflected throughout the business. It’s not really inclusive if the only people with disabilities in your company are those working in the lowest paid positions. People need to be able to see themselves throughout the business and, in turn, those in higher positions need to act as advocates for inclusion.

Final thoughts on prioritising disability inclusion

It doesn’t have to be an uphill slog to include people with disabilities and there are real rewards for doing so. Simple measures with a focus on long-term improvements are the key to becoming truly inclusive at work.

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Now read this:

Why closing the disability inclusion gap makes ethical and financial sense for businesses

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