The Business Case
Workplace diversity leads to increased revenues, reduced costs, greater innovation, increased employee engagement, increased productivity and commitment. However, in order to reap these benefits, organizational leaders must clarify the connection between their diversity efforts and their business goals. Businesses that value diversity understand that disability inclusion adds another dimension of value. Best practice companies ensure that their workforce mirrors their marketplace. In other words, there is most likely always a tie to the disability community, if you provide products and services to the general marketplace. At a minimum, your community brand, or corporate social responsibility is affected by your community engagement. If your organization directly serves this community, you have a straight line to market share by acknowledging and providing services needed by this community, The community will also expect to see themselves represented in your workforce. By including individuals with disabilities (both apparent and non-apparent) in the workforce, you will be better positioned to create and improve products and services to all.
A 2018 report from the American Institutes for Research (AIR) finds that inclusive hiring practices and involving people with disabilities in product development and advertisement can help businesses access a market worth billions of dollars. The total disposable income for U.S. adults with disabilities is about $490 billion, which is comparable to other significant market segments, such as African Americans ($501 billion) and Hispanics ($582 billion). (Disposable income is what is left after taxes are paid.); and Discretionary income for working-age people with disabilities is about $21 billion, which is greater than that of the African American ($3 billion) and Hispanic ($16 billion) market segments, combined. (Discretionary income is the money remaining after deducting taxes, other mandatory charges, and spending on necessities, such as food and housing.)“Even with a lower overall income, adults with disabilities, as a group, have a lot of spending power,” said Dahlia Shaewitz, a co-author on the report. “However, understanding and serving these consumers may require business and industry to make changes to some of their practices.” Hiring and retaining people with disabilities and involving them in the development and production of products and services will be an important strategy for accessing this market. Several companies, including Starbucks, Northrop Grumman, AT&T, and Ernst & Young, have increased their inclusive hiring practices, recognizing that hiring people with disabilities can improve the bottom line and increase customer loyalty. The report also suggests including adults with disabilities in advertising and marketing efforts and training employees on working with and meeting the needs of those with disabilities.
Employers who strategically reach out to the community of individuals with disabilities will expand their brand advantage – which translates to a bottom-line return on investment. Today there are more than 50 million Americans with disabilities. The disability community is growing. Eighty-two percent (82%) of disabilities are acquired through age, illness, accident, terrorist/violent acts or war. It is the only community that includes all other diverse populations.
According to a Gallup poll, eighty-eight percent (88%) of Americans prefer to do business with companies that hire people with disabilities. Therefore, your efforts at proactively focusing on the disability consumer, as well as the recruitment, retention, and promotion of individuals with disabilities will result in a distinct strategic market advantage.