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Companies Leading on Disability Inclusion Outperform Peers

Megan Amrich headshotWords by Megan Amrich
Leadership & Transparency
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Like many parents, I often think about what my young son will be when he grows up. As a person with disabilities, he faces unique challenges, but also brings unique strengths to everything he does. More employers, luckily, are beginning to realize the cultural and financial opportunities that disability inclusion can bring to the workplace.

Accenture, in partnership with Disability:IN and the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD), has released “Getting to Equal: The Disability Inclusion Advantage.” This report looks at both the disability practices and financial performance of 140 companies over the past four years.

One of the most significant findings in the report: Companies that “embrace best practices for employing and supporting more people with disabilities in their workforces” are several times more likely to outperform their peers financially.

The reality of employment for the 15.1 million Americans with disabilities

As of July 2018, only 29 percent of working age (16 to 64) Americans with disabilities were employed. Compare this with the 75 percent of Americans the same ages without disabilities who are working. Simply put – employers are missing out on an untapped talent pool of more than 10 million people.

In 2017, the unemployment rate for people with disabilities (9.2 percent) was more than double that for people without a disability (4.2 percent), according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Accenture’s analysis reports that the U.S. GDP could get up to a $25 billion boost if just 1 percent more people with disabilities join the workforce.

The business case for inclusion

“Persons with disabilities present business and industry with unique opportunities in labor-force diversity and corporate culture, and they’re a large consumer market eager to know which businesses authentically support their goals and dreams. Leading companies are accelerating disability inclusion as the next frontier of corporate social responsibility and mission-driven investing,” said Ted Kennedy, Jr. - disability rights attorney, Connecticut state senator and chairman of the AAPD board.

The 140 companies analyzed in “Getting to Equal” have all participated in the Disability Equality Index(DEI) — a benchmarking tool that gives U.S. businesses an objective score on their disability inclusion policies and practices — over the past four years. Forty-five of the companies were identified as “Champions” for their leadership in disability inclusion and employment. Compared with the other companies in the study, the Champions had on average over the past four years:


  • 28 percent higher revenue

  • double the net income

  • 30 percent higher economic profit margins.

  • twice the likelihood of financially outperforming their peers.
Even more interesting was the report’s data on companies that improve upon their inclusion practices. Whether in the Champions category or not, companies that improved their inclusion of persons with disabilities over time were four times more likely than others to have total shareholder returns outperforming those of their peer group.

The Four E’s: Steps to improve disability inclusion

“Getting to Equal” found four key actions that organizations can take to attract, hire, retain and advance the hiring of people with disabilities:

  1. Employ: Companies must ensure that people with disabilities are represented, encouraged, and supported in the workplace.

  2. Enable: Leadership must provide employees with disabilities with tools, technology and accommodations to increase accessibility.

  3. Engage: Companies must generate awareness building through recruitment, disability education programs, and grassroots-led efforts like employee resource groups.

  4. Empower: Employers must create empowering environments through mentoring and coaching initiatives and skilling/re-skilling programs to ensure employees with disabilities continue to advance and thrive.
“This groundbreaking research indicates that it pays to be inclusive: When companies create an inclusive culture for persons with disabilities, everyone benefits,” said Chad Jerdee, Accenture’s general counsel & chief compliance officer. “This research is the first to correlate an inclusive workplace for persons with disabilities with financial performance. By making companies aware of the potential gains and sharing success stories, we can get more persons with disabilities into the workforce, where they can thrive.”

Image credit: StockSnap / Pixabay

Megan Amrich headshotMegan Amrich

Megan is a freelance writer and editor interested in sharing stories of positive change and resilience. Her blog - chronicling her experience as a parent of a special needs child - will launch later this year

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