- The Valuable 500 campaign, launched at the World Economic Forum’s annual summit in Davos, Switzerland, will seek a commitment from 500 businesses to put diversity inclusion on their boards’ agendas for 2019. The campaign aims to challenge businesses that claim to be diverse, yet exclude workers with disability from their definition of diversity. The event marked the first time the forum included the topic of disability on its main stage.
- According to #valuable, more than one billion people — 15% of the world’s population — have some form of disability, but businesses regularly ignore their value. The number of people with a disability has a potential market equivalent the size of the U.S., Pakistan, Indonesia and Brazil combined, but the global employment rate for individuals with disabilities is half that of those without disabilities. Statistics from the World Health Organization showed that nearly half of businesses in Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries would rather pay fines for violating disability laws than achieve disability quotas.
- "It’s no longer good enough for companies to say 'disability doesn’t fit with our brand' or 'it’s a good idea to explore next year.' Businesses cannot be truly inclusive if disability is continuingly [sic] ignored on leadership agendas," Caroline Casey, founder of #valuable, said in a statement. The first six companies to sign up for the Valuable 500 were Accenture, Microsoft, Fujitsu, Unilever, Barclays and Cinepolis.
Few CEOs prioritize or even address the inclusion of people with disabilities, a recent EY study (also paired with #valuable) revealed, and organizations continue to overlook workers with disabilities in their diversity plans. The Valuable 500 campaign's kickoff at the World Economic Forum puts a global spotlight on disability inclusion in the workplace.
In October, participants in a one-day conference, Uniting New and Emerging Leaders: Best Practices on Employing People with Disabilities, identified five ways for employers to improve disability inclusion:
- Make accessibility a priority;
- Value flexibility when considering various ways jobs can be performed;
- Include people with diverse disabilities in marketing pieces;
- Encourage employee discussions on social issues involving personal experiences they can share; and
- Support a learning attitude, which encourages managers to learn how to work with employees with disabilities.
But it's not enough to include people with disabilities in diversity initiatives; organizations also must understand and comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The law requires U.S. employers to provide reasonable accommodations to workers with disabilities, unless the accommodation presents an undue hardship to the employer. And once an employee requests an accommodation, employers are encouraged to engage in an "interactive process" with the employee. The penalties for violating the law can run into the millions.
David K. Fram, director of the National Employment Law Institute's (NELI) ADA & Equal Employment Opportunity Services, previously told HR Dive that organizations can help avoid an ADA lawsuit by training managers to start a conversation about accommodation with five simple words: How can I help you?