Many don’t realize that accessibility falls squarely under the umbrella of inclusion. In fact, of the 1,283 largest publicly traded companies in the United States, 938 exhibit no observable activity in relation to the disability population, according to the Return on Disability Group.
We’ll do the math for you. That means only 345 companies are making efforts to connect and communicate with people with disabilities.
Below, we’ll detail some ways companies are mismatched when it comes to DEI, accessibility and consumer-facing vs. employer brands. Because we know you want and can do better by everybody.
Why accessibility has to be holistic
There’s often a mismatch between a company’s DEI efforts and accessibility. But you aren’t truly an inclusive company if you’re not also an accessible company — both from a public-facing and internal perspective.
Why? Because inclusion implies that everyone is included — and welcomed — disability status notwithstanding.
Attracting, hiring and retaining employees is difficult. You know that all too well. But, inclusive brands with inclusive communications and accessible systems are at an advantage from a recruiting standpoint. Those brands will have access to a larger and more diverse talent pool — including people with disabilities who can apply to open positions because of accessible application tools.
3 ways companies fall short of comprehensive accessibility
1. Disability inclusiveness stops at consumer-facing communications
Many companies are simply performative when it comes to inclusion. They may feature images of people with disabilities in their external marketing materials but they’ve given no thought to actually including people with disabilities in their company.
A person could see an ad for a company that features someone in a wheelchair. They think the company is disability friendly. But when they apply for a position, the company’s application process is completely inaccessible. Maybe the job description can’t be read by a screen reader. Or the color contrast on the recruitment website is so bad that someone with low vision can’t even make out the text on the page.
No matter the issue, there’s a disconnect between the consumer brand and the employer brand. These disconnects foster distrust, which can alienate your consumers and prospective employees alike. After all, your consumers and employees can be one in the same. The impression you leave is critical to your reputation, regardless of who’s interacting with your brand.
Besides, you’re missing out on really talented people who simply can’t throw their hat in the ring because your system’s aren’t accessible.
2. Accessibility considerations halt at onboarding
Some companies do manage to make their external brand inclusive to people with disabilities and build an accessible recruitment platform. They may even discuss inclusion and accessibility during the hiring process.
But then, a person with a disability actually joins the team. Once this person gets past the hiring process, they realize there’s nothing accessible about the inner workings of the company. None of the employee experience tools work for them, so they can’t effectively or efficiently do the job they were hired for.
Talk about a bait and switch. It’s not fair to new hires if you make them feel as if your company is an inclusive — and accessible — place to work only to stop supporting them once they join your team.
For the record, we’re not so jaded as to think companies are always doing this on purpose. It’s possible to want to be open to hiring people with disabilities but lack the resources and education to make your workplace accessible. Still, you are actively excluding people with disabilities if your internal systems are inaccessible. And again, that disconnect between your external and internal brand breeds consumer and employee distrust.
3. Accessibility is seen as checking a regulatory box
Many companies that do include people with disabilities in their DEI initiatives approach it all wrong (sometimes unknowingly). They consider accessibility to be an item on a regulatory or compliance checklist. Once they tick the box, their systems are accessible, and that’s the end of it.
However, approaching accessibility and inclusion this way comes across as insincere — even if it’s not meant to be. That’s why it’s crucial to be genuine in your efforts toward holistic inclusion. Because people see right through posturing.
What comprehensive accessibility looks like
No one is legally required to disclose a disability to their employer. In fact, an estimated 75% of people with disabilities do not disclose for fear of losing their job or not being hired in the first place. Further, approximately 34% of employees with an undisclosed disability believe their coworkers would scrutinize their behavior if they self-identified.
This is why we emphasize the importance of a holistic approach to accessibility. Your external and internal brands and systems should be accessible to support people with disabilities. But also to encourage people without disabilities — your employees included — to support their colleagues, regardless of their (known or unknown) disability status.
By the way, a holistic approach to accessibility does not mean you have to tackle every accessibility to-do immediately. You just need to start somewhere! Even adding a simple accessibility statement to your website acknowledging your shortcomings and discussing your plans to become a more accessible place to work and do business goes a long way.
A partner like Sanger and Eby can help you identify low hanging fruit when it comes to jumpstarting your accessibility efforts, and then taking them to the next level once you’re well on your way to accessible — and inclusive — platforms.
There’s no downside when DEI initiatives include the disability population
Inclusion and accessibility — acceptance — should be the status quo company-wide. When it is, your employees feel free to bring their entire selves to work. That freedom to be open leads to higher levels of employee engagement. Not to mention that satisfied, supported employees become advocates for your company as a place to work and a business to support.
Don’t let your brand be mismatched. Inclusivity and accessibility are cut from the same cloth and matter to your employees and consumers alike.