Disability Inclusion is fast becoming a key focus for business and wider society. as it has been over 25 years since the Disability Discrimination Act received Royal Charter and was a milestone in the struggle for equality of disabled people. Yet, exclusion from the workplace still make headlines, such as the story of Karine Elharrar who was prevented from attending the recent UN COP summit at Glasgow. The event was acutely embarrassing for the UN and the conference organisers, yet this was unsurprising for the Disability Community who are often met with situations where systems are not designed with them in mind, and hence produce a barrier. Focus on this complex ethical issue is long overdue.
Momentum for change is developing, and it is time for a reset and a new business agenda for disability inclusion. There is still a long way to go but the pandemic has accelerated this, as we have all had to adapt. We need to move from seeing disability as a discretionary interest, an inspiration or charitable. We need to recognise the value and insight growth that disabled people bring. In terms of Diversity and Equality initiatives, Disability is often overlooked among the protected characteristics of ethnicity, gender and social background. Yet it intersects all, and Disability is the one grouping that we can all become part of one day: either through illness, accident, or ageing. The 2020 Global Economics of Disability report estimated the market value of disabled customers and their families to be $1.85bn, or a market bigger than China. Accenture reported in 2018 that businesses that embed accessibility achieve 28% higher revenue, double the net income, and 30% higher profit margins.
Business leaders are recognising that they cannot ignore 15% of the Global market. The Valuable 500 campaign was launched at the World Economic Forum in 2019, led by Caroline Casey and has persuaded the CEOs of over 500 major companies to make a commitment to closing the disability divide. Do take a few moments to view details and short videos on their website – the case is compelling.
Another important campaign, #Wethe15, was launched following from the Tokyo Paralympics in 2021, this uses the focus on sport as a catalyst to initiate change. This aims to transform the lives of the world’s 1.2 billion persons with disabilities who represent 15% of the global population. At a time when diversity and inclusion are important topics, the 15% who have a disability want effective change to eliminate the inequality and inactivity. Over the next decade international organisations from the world of sport, human rights, policy, communications, business, arts and entertainment will be brought together in the biggest ever human rights movement to end discrimination.
So when there is media focus on the value of Disabled people on International Day of Persons with Disabilities (3 December, annually) please take a moment to reflect on how accessible your business is to this large section of society. Then make a commitment to being open to learning more about the role you and your business can take to be a part of change. It is not only ethical to do so but makes good business sense too.
Dr Jo Gooding (she/her) is an educator, researcher, and expert in design for disability. She is experienced in inclusive design, conducting research, mentoring entrepreneurs, and delivers reviews and workshops on Disability Inclusive Design for Business. She is currently establishing a support network for entrepreneurs in adaptive fashion and clothing. If you would like to know more please contact her at [email protected] or through LinkedIn at wwww.linkedin.com/in/jo-gooding-design.