How to Make Disability Part of Your D&I Program

Read time: 6 minutes

In today’s climate, businesses are valuing the importance of diversity and inclusion (D&I) more than ever. Yet, while more than 90 percent of companies say they prioritize diversity, only about 4 percent of them consider disability in their D&I initiatives, according to an article in the Harvard Business Review.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 19.1 percent of persons with disabilities were employed in 2021. This is up from 17.9 percent in 2020. Building a truly inclusive workplace means valuing all employees for their strengths, and when it comes people with disabilities, there are many strengths this workforce offers to employers.

So, how can your business create D&I program that is also inclusive of persons with disabilities? Here are 4 ideas:


1. Understand the value persons with disabilities bring to the workforce – Valuing the abilities persons with disabilities bring to the table is the first step. In Connecticut, people with disabilities are successfully working in organization from Fortune 500 to “mom and pop” small businesses every day. In addition to the productivity, research shows businesses who have diversified their workforce to include people with disabilities reported a 90 percent increase in retention of valued employees and a 72 percent increase in employee productivity. In addition, hiring a person with a disability may qualify your business for federal and state tax credits.


2. Be Open to Finding the Right Talent – Understand the barriers that might discourage someone with a disability from applying. While job postings may indicate your business is an Equal Opportunity Employer, ensure the job descriptions and requirements are written in ways a person with disabilities is encouraged to apply. For example: Listing flexible telework policies available or requiring “reliable transportation” to a from work vs. owning a vehicle if the job is not that of a driver. Additionally, eliminating often standard language that may not be essential to a particular job i.e., must be able to lift 25 lbs., if it a desk job or executive job. In addition, working directly with a trained Workforce Counselor at the Bureau of Rehabilitation Services (BRS) can ensure you find the right talent with the right experience. BRS provides services like the trial work program where an employer can “try out” a job seeker at no cost before making an employment offer, and the wage reimbursement program that reimburses wages up to 130 percent during the training period.


3. Create an inclusive workplace for persons with disabilities – This begins at the top. Ensuring leadership clearly communicates to its workforce the importance of disability inclusion as part of its mission is important to creating an environment where everyone will thrive. Additionally, providing a workplace that is safe, accessible and accommodating for people of all abilities is another visible way to demonstrate disability inclusion. The good news is less than 40 percent of workers with disabilities require special accommodations. If they do, they often cost less than $500 and these costs are usually offset by increases in productivity and lower turnover when hiring workers with disabilities.


4. Learn how other companies are succeeding – From large companies, like Traveler’s Insurance and Foxwood, to small ones like Unbakeables and Mothership Bakery, Café and Catering, many businesses in Connecticut have successfully created disability inclusive workforces with the help and support of BRS. Each company had distinct needs that were solved in partnership with disability employment experts at BRS. No matter the size of your business or your industry, there are numerous examples of success and best practices from which to learn how to solve your specific needs.


Getting Started


At BRS, we work with businesses of all sizes and from a wide variety of industries across the state and provide an untapped talent pool of candidates with diverse abilities. BRS also provides additional and ongoing services that can help with training, development and retention. One of our regional Workforce Counselors can help answer your questions about our services and incentive programs and get you on the path to finding and retaining great talent. Click here to learn about our services.

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