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How Website Accessibility Can Help Close the Disability Inclusion Gap

November 05, 2018

It’s one thing for a team’s leadership to say they want to be more inclusive and another to successfully put that vision into practice. Just starting the process can raise a lot of questions: How does the human resources department get involved? Where does the role of the chief diversity officer begin and end? And how does the information trickle down to managers and IT directors? The short answer: Being more disability-friendly has to be a cross-departmental, multi-level priority, involving every area of the business, from human resources to the IT department. To be successful, companies also need to measure what matters from start to finish, according to the most recent Disability Equality Index Report, a national benchmarking tool for businesses to track their disability inclusion efforts.

Here are five key pieces of research-proven advice from this year's report as well as links to resources that should be very helpful for people just beginning their workforce inclusion efforts:

  1. Differentiate Between Diversity and Disability Inclusion. For example, don’t fall back on using the word diversity as a catch-all phrase and think that people with disabilities will feel recognized. They probably won't. Instead, mention disabilities and equal opportunity policies up front and often in your business materials and at events. Companies that excel in disability inclusion also have a company-wide policy on Diversity and Inclusion that is disseminated throughout the organization. A great starting point: Review whether your commitment to inclusion is reflected in your hiring practices. Only 44% of companies make all job interview candidates aware of the option to request an accommodation(s) for an interview. Only 15% of companies that utilize personality profile screening tests/instruments, allow applicants with a disability to opt-out (8% provide an alternative to the personality test), according to the DEI.

Woman sitting with a laptop in a coffee shop. She has a prosthetic device on one leg.

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  1. Share Positive Examples Of Inclusion. Every business has the ability to become more inclusive—and one of the best ways to convince colleagues across the enterprise of that fact is to share case studies. RespectAbility, a nonprofit, nonpartisan group committed to advancing opportunities for people with disabilities, stands out for its coverage of current issues and its free resources. They have a listing of past webinars and articles on their website for reference. (Here’s a case study for success in the hotel industry. You can find past webinars on best practices, here.)

  1. Make Closing The Pay Gap A Priority. “People want to live and make decisions for themselves. How can they do that without being gainfully employed?” asks Ted Kennedy, Jr., board chair of the American Association of People with Disabilities. A whopping 97% of businesses that ranked high on the DEI pay all of their employees at least local, state, or federal minimum wage—whichever is highest.

All types of workers bump up against the pay gap. Earnings inequality is greatest among those with a master’s degree or higher. People with disabilities who get advanced degrees earn nearly $21,000 a year less than people without disabilities but with the same amount of education. If you are looking for a quick explainer video on the disability pay gap, check out this one from the Equality and Human Rights Commission, Great Britain’s national equality body.

  1. Create An Employee Resource Group (ERG) or Inclusion Council.“There has been a substantial increase in the number of companies creating groups that officially focus on disability issues. Who should be a part of these groups? Keep the definition of the group fairly open, experts advise. “ERG’s can and should include people who are caregivers, mothers, and fathers who want support, as well as all types people with disabilities,” explains Nan Ferrara, executive vice president and continuous improvement officer at Voya Financial.

  1. Make Your Website Accessible. Only 47% of businesses surveyed in 2018 conducted usability studies for their highest traffic URLS to verify that their websites work effectively with screen reading and other assistive technology, compared to just 36% in 2016. Ignoring website accessibility not only creates a huge barrier for people with disabilities, but it could also put you on the wrong side of the law. Still, 45% of businesses surveyed did not have a company-wide external and internal commitment to digital accessibility, according to Chad Jerdee, general counsel and chief compliance officer at Accenture Research.

To view the full report, visit Disability:IN. This is the second in a series about measuring what matters in the disability community. For more information and resources you can follow me on Twitter @dbrodey.

Source: Forbes

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