A Global Diversity Reality: Disability Means Business
By Guest-Blogger, Gary Karp, leading expert on Disability in the Workplace.
Whether you’re the CEO, a middle-manager, or you spend every day processing accounts payable (or any other indispensable job that makes your organization hum), you want to be part of an organization that finds and keeps the best people, right?
As the CEO you need people to produce a solid bottom line. As a manager you need people to execute certain tasks and be manageable. And everyone wants co-workers who are enjoyable to work with and carry their share of the work.
That could well be a person who happens to have a disability.
But we live in a society that views disability through a lens of “not able.” The word itself means “can’t work” to many people in business. Recent studies of employers prove this; they report doubts in a person with a disability being able to perform, to be evaluated, or whether managers and co-workers can even be comfortable interacting with them. These concerns appear in significant percentages across organizations of all types and sizes.
These turn out not to be true—and less so every day. A radical transformation is occurring around us which has unleashed the potential of people with disabilities of all kinds. They are more mobile in a more accessible world, more healthy, more educated, and more empowered by technology then ever in human history. They are people first, fully able to contribute in the workplace, with real goals and desires.
Organizations which fail to see these people clearly for who they are and what they have to offer easily miss out on great employees who would help achieve the greatest profit or success of your mission. The filter of “can’t” might easily cost your organization a key employee who makes a significant difference.
This is equally true for existing employees who acquire a disability. Although the Americans with Disabilities Act already requires entering into an “interactive process” when someone reports a disability, when workplace culture views disability through these old and obsolete lenses, a valued employee is less like to stay at or return to work following the onset of a disability.
That’s very expensive. The costs of benefits and premiums, more stress on remaining workers—possibly paying them overtime—or resorting to inexperienced temporary workers add up fast. And when you have to replace an employee, the recruiting, training, and ramp up process is also extremely costly—especially if that new person doesn’t work out and you have to do it all over again.
Organizations need to think on the other side, too. People with disabilities already have substantial disposable income, and their families and friends often make spending choices which are influenced by these relationships. There are already billions of dollars on the table. If you do not understand your customers or constituents with disabilities, you will lose this revenue and fail to meet their needs.
Having people with disabilities on your diverse team can only help you embrace them as consumers.
How workplace culture thinks of disability makes the crucial difference in finding and keeping every person who has a role to play in reaching success. That’s why your workplace culture needs to catch up to the current picture of what disability actually means now, and embrace the current truth of Modern Disability.