Coffee shops are cool, but in Wilmington, North Carolina, Bitty & Beau’s Coffee is known for its warmth.
At the heart of the shop’s popularity is its unique staff: Almost everyone who works there has an intellectual or developmental disability, ranging from Down syndrome to autism to cerebral palsy. For many employees, it’s their first job, and their joy fills the air.
It’s the vision of Wilmington resident Amy Wright, inspired by two of her four children — Beau and Bitty, who have Down syndrome.
When Wright and her husband discovered that nearly 70% of adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities do not have jobs, they resolved to do something about it.
“It hit me like a lightning bolt: a coffee shop!” Wright said. “I realized it would be the perfect environment for bringing people together. Seeing the staff taking orders, serving coffee — they’d realize how capable they are.”
The shop opened in January 2016 and immediately had lines out the door. National press attention followed, and six months later, it had to move to a larger space.
Today, the store employs 40 people with disabilities, as well as two managers who have degrees in special education. The team works like a well-oiled machine.
“Our wait time is no longer than any of our competitors,” Wright said. “They’ve all gotten really good at their jobs and step up if somebody else needs help.”
All the profits from the coffee shop go to Wright’s nonprofit, Able to Work USA. But she’s most proud of the bridges it’s built in the community.
“Creating this has given people a way to interact with people with disabilities that (they) never had before,” she said. “This is a safe place where people can test the waters and realize how much more alike we are than different. And that’s what it’s all about.”
Continue onto CNN to read a complete interview with Amy.
Cynthia DiBartolo’s journey to the New York Stock Exchange floor was fraught with challenges and difficulty.
In July 2021, DiBartolo’s firm, Tigress Financial Partners, became the first disabled and woman-owned floor broker to become a member of the NYSE.
Floor brokers are members of firms who execute trades on the exchange floor on behalf of the firm’s clients. They are physically present on the trading floor and are active during the New York Stock Exchange opening and closing auctions.
Tigress Financial Partners has been co-manager or selling group member on more than 620 IPO and secondary transactions with an aggregate market value of over $321 billion, including for companies such as Warner Music, Monday.com, and Airbnb.
In mid-2020, Wall Street banks, which are predominately run by white men, came under intense pressure to improve diversity following the Black Lives Matter protests.
Companies vowed to improve their practices via philanthropic programs, diverse hiring practices, and internships for underprivileged candidates. DiBartolo crafted a diversity questionnaire to make it easier for companies selling stock or issuing debt to find and vet minority and women-owned firms. American Airlines has already adopted the survey, and JPMorgan has begun to create a database to help automate the process.
Prior to launching Tigress Financial in 2011, DiBartolo served as a compliance director, an attorney, and as a risk management director for some of Wall Streets’ largest firms. However, her life would change in 2009 with a diagnosis of throat and neck cancer.
DiBartolo became severely disabled following life-saving surgery that compromised her ability to eat, speak and swallow. Through reconstructive surgery, DiBartolo was able to regain her ability to speak, but can only do so several hours a day.
Cancer not only took DiBartolo’s voice but also her career, as she recalled in an interview with CNBC’s Bob Pisani. “You see, there was no place for an attorney, risk management director, compliance director who couldn’t speak,” she said.
During her recovery, DiBartolo began to understand just how marginalized people in the disabled community were. “During the time I didn’t have the ability to speak, I realized how marginalized I was not just in financial services, but in society,” she said.
Inspiration from her father convinced her that she needed to act; “They took your tongue, not your brain.” her father told her. Using her experience from decades on Wall Street and tenacity DiBartolo launched the first and nation’s only disabled and woman-owned financial services firm.
“You have to work hard on being your true self, and believe in the brands you promote.”
Words of advice from 32-year-old disabled influencer Tess Daly from Sheffield, who uses her 200,000-plus followers on Instagram to promote her beauty tutorials and advertise beauty brands.
Electric wheelchair-user Tess, who has spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), has worked on social marketing campaigns for the likes of Boohoo and Pretty Little Thing, as well as various make-up brands.
She still cringes at the term “social influencer”, but says that she wishes there were more people like her when she was growing up.
“So many people with disabilities have told me that I’ve given them the confidence, not only to embrace their disability, but to also pursue their own love of make-up,” she says.
Tess is one of a growing number of disabled influencers who work with Martyn Sibley and his digital marketing agency Purple Goat, which he launched at the beginning of lockdown last year.
Martyn, who was also born with SMA, started the agency as part of his mission for a fully inclusive world.
“I believe by helping big businesses make more profit through including disabled consumers via disabled influencers, we’ll get true inclusion quicker,” he says. “With this model it’s a win-win for everyone.”
Purple Goat has worked with more than 75 influencers so far, but Martyn is keen to point out that they’re not a talent agency with people on their books.
“We work for the client and find the right influencer for each campaign,” he explains.
Taking the plunge
Around 14.1 million people in the UK have some sort of disability, and with those sorts of numbers comes serious spending power. According to disability charity Scope, the so-called “purple pound” is worth approximately £273bn every year.
But while disabled people make up around 22% of the UK population, this is not reflected when it comes to advertising. Up-to-date figures are hard to come by, but research from Lloyds Banking Group in 2016 showed that disabled people featured in just 0.06% of advertising.
This was the main driver behind Martyn launching Purple Goat. He thinks the world of marketing and advertising is now becoming a lot more socially aware, and is ready for disruption.
“I believe it’s partly the way public opinion has improved around diversity and inclusion,” he says. “Brands have been fearful of getting disability wrong, but they’re now fearful of being called out for doing nothing.”
Tess has certainly seen a pick-up in social media work. Up until last year, it was something she did as a sideline, but towards the end of 2020 she took the plunge to become a full-time influencer, and now works with an agent to manage her workload.
It wasn’t as easy as people may think, she says. “You can’t just wake up one day and decide you want to become a social influencer.”
‘Demanding to be seen’
Last year London-based luxury shoe brand Kurt Geiger started working with Northern Irish amputee model and influencer Bernadette Hagans.
The company’s chief executive, Neil Clifford, thinks that the rise in disabled influencers is down to the public’s change of mood.
“The boom in social media has given a voice to those who have previously been under-represented in the public eye and they are, quite rightly, demanding to be seen and heard,” he says. “People expect businesses to utilize their influence to counter inequality and many brands are reacting to this need.”
Twenty-six-year-old Pippa Stacey from York works in the charity sector, and blogs about living with chronic illness. Pippa, who lives with myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), also known as chronic fatigue syndrome, has also worked with Purple Goat doing social media campaigns for brands such as Tesco.
“Influencer marketing is about so much more than just the hard sell. It’s about supporting a positive image of the brand and their values, of which inclusivity should be central in this day and age,” she says.
Inclusivity on the part of big brands shouldn’t just be a tick box exercise, something they feel compelled to do to avoid criticism, she says.
“Having an ongoing relationship with disabled influencers, and taking the time to understand their platform. and their audience can help brands construct the most effective campaigns in a socially conscious way.”
Sunrise Medical, a world leader in advanced assistive mobility solutions, is pleased to announce that it has completed two strategic acquisitions in Europe in 2022 – The Helping Hand Company based in the UK and Now Tech based in Hungary – continuing its strong pursuit for strategic improvements and growth.
The Helping Hand Company is a reputed British company specializing in the design, manufacturing, and distribution of pressure management seating and positioning products, Symmetrikit 24hour postural care range, independent living, and environmental products.
Its well-established operation and vertically integrated manufacturing will benefit Sunrise Medical group in strengthening production capability in Europe and further optimizing its global supply chain. It also extends the product portfolio, especially in the Seating and Pediatrics area, to offer more comprehensive 24-hour postural care products to satisfy the well-diversified customer demand.
Now Tech, a Budapest-headquartered tech start-up company, joins Sunrise Medical with a strong digital, software, and electronic engineering team, bringing highly desired technical skills and more than 10 years of industry-specific knowledge and expertise. Its latest innovation, the special head control product Gyroset Vigo, has already been well received by the market and will become part of Sunrise Medical’s SWITCH-IT power wheelchair special control product offering. The addition of Now Tech will significantly strengthen the group’s innovation power.
“We are very excited to welcome The Helping Hand Company and Now Tech into the Sunrise Medical family. Continuously improving our global operation excellence and striving for great, breakthrough innovations has always been the center of our strategy,” Thomas Babacan, the President and CEO of Sunrise Medical group (pictured above) commented. “Both acquisitions will significantly strengthen our group’s setup and competences, especially in global supply chain and our innovation talents, which will enable us to further improve our products & performances and serve our customers better in many ways.”
About Sunrise Medical:Committed to improving people’s lives, Sunrise Medical is a world leader in the innovation, manufacture and distribution of advanced assistive mobility devices and solutions. Distributed in more than 130 countries under its own 17 proprietary brands, the key products include manual and power wheelchairs, power assist products, motorized scooters, seating & positioning systems and daily living aids. Operating in 18 countries, Sunrise Medical group is headquartered in Malsch, Germany and employs over 2,300 associates worldwide.
Click here to find out more about Sunrise Medical visit.
By the Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion (EARN)
The challenges brought to daily life in 2020, coupled with an increased understanding about the prevalence of mental health conditions, is spurring employers to consider strategies they can use to support employees’ mental health.
To help employers learn how to cultivate a welcoming and supportive work environment for employees with mental health conditions, the Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion (EARN) created a Mental Health Toolkit centered around four pillars referred to as the “4 A’s of a Mental Health-Friendly Workplace.” The toolkit also provides summaries of research and examples of mental health initiatives implemented by employers of varying sizes and industries.
The first “A” of the four pillars, awareness, involves strategies for educating employers and workers about mental health issues and taking action to foster a supportive workplace culture. One example of an organization’s efforts in this area is professional services firm EY’s “We Care” campaign. This internal campaign uses personal stories, including those shared by company leadership, to educate employees about mental health conditions, reduce stigma, and encourage them to support one another.
The second “A” in the “4 A’s” is accommodations, meaning providing employees with mental health conditions the supports they need to perform their job. Common examples include flexible work arrangements and/or schedules, which may be considered reasonable accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act, and other disability nondiscrimination laws and regulations.
An example of accommodations for someone with a mental health condition are those provided by defense contractor Northrop Grumman for an employee who is a veteran with service-connected disabilities, including post-traumatic stress disorder. The employee uses several workplace accommodations to ensure his workplace success, including noise-cancelling headphones and bringing his service dog to work with him.
The third “A,” assistance, refers to assisting employees who have, or may develop, a mental health condition. Many employers do this through formal employee assistance programs (EAPs). An example of this in action is chemical and pharmaceutical manufacturer DuPont, which has a long history with EAPs. In fact, DuPont is regarded as having one of the first.
Today, DuPont has a number of internal initiatives focused on mental health and employee wellbeing, with strong support from top leadership. As an example, DuPont’s global EAP team created and implemented an internal anti-stigma campaign called “ICU” (“I See You”), the centerpiece of which is an animated video about how to recognize signs of emotional distress in colleagues and encourage them to seek help. Based on its success, DuPont decided to make the program available to all employers, free of charge, through a partnership with the Center for Workplace Mental Health.
EAPs are associated with larger businesses, but it is important to note that there are strategies small businesses can use to offer EAP services, for example, by banding together to negotiate for better rates. Business membership groups such as chambers of commerce or trade associations may be of assistance in this regard. In fact, providing employee assistance in the small business environment can be especially important, given that decreased productivity or the absence of even one employee can have a significant impact on a small organization.
The final “A,” access, encourages employers to assess company healthcare plans to ensure or increase coverage for behavioral/mental health treatment, something shown to benefit not only individuals, but also companies by way of the bottom line. According to the American Psychiatric Association, more than 80 percent of employees treated for mental health conditions report improved levels of efficiency and satisfaction at work.
An example of a company with a strong focus on providing access to mental health services for its employers is global pharmaceutical company Lundbeck, which engages in the research, development, and sale of drugs for psychiatric and neurological disorders. According to company representatives, educating about and decreasing stigma associated with mental health is one of Lundbeck’s core corporate beliefs—and this applies not only externally, but also internally for its employees. Reflecting this, prescription medications for mental health conditions are available to employees or their dependents at no cost when prescribed by a physician. Further, all benefits information sent to employees leading up to the company’s healthcare plan open enrollment period prominently feature mental health messaging.
For companies that are federal contractors, taking steps to foster a mental health-friendly workplace can have additional benefits by helping demonstrate an overall commitment to disability inclusion. As a result, employees with mental health conditions may feel more comfortable self-identifying as having a disability, which helps employers measure their progress toward goals under Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act. Federal contractors, and all businesses, can use EARN’s Mental Health Toolkit to learn how to “bring their A game” when it comes to workplace mental health.
Hollywood plays a massive part in shaping our understanding of different groups and helps us gain insight into worlds and cultures we may never have been able to on our own. The movies and TV series that flood our screens are more than just entertainment; they’re education. But with great power and influence comes great responsibility as there’s always the danger of misrepresentation.
Over the years, Hollywood has faced backlash from several communities and social movements about the issue of misrepresentation and underrepresentation. Groups identifying with Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ, the MeToo Movement, and protests like the OscarsSoWhite campaign come to mind.
People with disabilities, moreover racialized groups with disabilities, should also be at the forefront of this conversation, but they aren’t. This is a huge problem, especially considering that about a billion people live with some form of disability. In the U.S., one in five people have a disability, and for adults specifically, the disability count is about 26 percent, according to the CDC—roughly one in four adults.
“It’s almost impossible not to find people living with disabilities in any of these communities that feel let down by the entertainment industry’s depiction of their reality,” he said. “The discussion about proper inclusion and authentic depictions of a disabled person’s circumstances can only bode well for these groups and the entire industry as a whole.”
Disability isn’t new to the entertainment industry
Hollywood and the wider entertainment industry have many popular figures who are on the disability spectrum. Michael J. Fox has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, Jim Carrey has talked about having ADHD, and Billie Eilish was diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome as a child, to mention a few.
Many of Hollywood’s big names have also brought awareness to various disabilities by talking about their condition, advocating for better understanding and acceptance of people with disabilities, or donating to their cause. The industry has also taken steps to shine a light on disabilities by making movies and TV productions focused on varying disabilities, or casting lead characters as people with disabilities.
The problem here is that the bigger picture still tells a story of underrepresentation and a lack of inclusion with only 3.5 percent of series regular characters being disabled in 2020, according to GLAAD. Another study found that this number was reasonably higher in 2018—12 per cent higher in fact—but that the majority of these characters were portrayed negatively.
There have been reports over the years of actors, writers, and other workers in entertainment losing their jobs or not being considered for a position due to disability-related issues. So while some of the silver screen’s most loved names play the roles of disabled characters and win awards and recognitions, the disabled community isn’t seeing any reasonable increase in inclusion and accessibility in the industry. In fact, about 95 per cent of characters with disabilities in Hollywood’s top shows are played by able-bodied actors, and during the 2019 Oscars, only two out of the 61 nominees and 27 winners that played disabled characters were actually disabled.
This gives credence to the concern of inauthentic portrayals of any given disability or disabled person. “It has never made sense to me that disabled characters in our shows and movies are played by people who have no disability.” Musab opines, “You can’t give what you don’t have, not optimally anyway. The way I see it, it’s like getting Cameron Diaz to play Harriet Tubman. No matter how pure her intentions and commitment to deliver on the role, she simply won’t be able to do it justice. It is an indictment of the abilities of disabled artists.”
The real focus is not only on the disability of the Hollywood spectrum but on the lack of inclusivity for racialized groups within the disabled community. The stories of their lives may have been voiced on several platforms but never from the eyes of the Hollywood industry. This is an important recognition for racialized groups within the disabled community, to not only be recognized but seen through a macro spectrum of representations.
On the outside, it looks like your typical Lakewood apartment.
Fourteen units close to shopping and restaurants, right in the heart of the city.
But on the inside, four apartments have been in the works for nearly two years.
They’re called TryTech – short for “try technology.”
A partnership between the nonprofit North Coast Community Homes and the Cuyahoga County Board of Developmental Disabilities.
Kelly Petty is the CEO at CCBDD.
“We might see people with cerebral palsy, autism, Down syndrome, a whole variety of disabilities that qualify for our services,” she explained.
And TryTech is the first of its kind in the country.
Smart apartments tricked out with the latest in technology to make independent living for those with developmental disabilities attainable.
Voice activated tech, smart fridges and doorbells, an iPad with access to a virtual support person at the touch of a button, just to name a few things.
Being in an integrated building sets it apart even more.
“People who come to live in the TryTech apartments will be living in the same building as people without disabilities and that is unique and very exciting,” Petty said.
Chris West is the CEO of North Coast Community Homes, which has helped build and design hundreds of homes for those with disabilities in Northeast Ohio. Their partnership with CCBDD stretches nearly four decades.
“This really allows them to be in a community that’s inclusive,” West said.
The apartments will be available to four individuals at a time, on a trial basis —they can test it out for a weekend or even up to a few weeks.
From there, they can decide which parts of the technology are most helpful, so that can be integrated in a more permanent home for them.
Grace Gorton was one of the first to test it out.
“It feels very empowering as a deaf person and deaf single woman,” Gorton said, adding that she’s proud of herself for getting out of her comfort zone. “I want to work on my self confidence and my ability to live on my own.”
“It really allow them to show everybody they can live on their own. We know that they can,” West said.
And this project lets them prove it — to themselves, to their families, and to their support systems.
Click here to read the full article on News 5 Cleveland.
Quaden Bayles, an indigenous Australian boy who won the support of celebrities and well-wishers around the globe after being bullied because of his disability, has landed a role in the new “Mad Max” movie.Oscar-winning director George Miller has cast the now 11-year-old in a small role in the movie “Furiosa,” a prequel to his 2015 post-apocalyptic blockbuster “Mad Max: Fury Road.” Miller revealed in an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald’s Good Weekend magazine, published Saturday, that he was moved to put Bayles on the big screen after watching the distressing video his mother shared of him in February 2020.
The Queensland boy, born with a type of dwarfism known as achondroplasia, is already scheduled to appear alongside Idris Elba and Tilda Swinton in Miller’s next film, “Three Thousand Years of Longing.” “It was good for us and it was good for him,” Miller told the Sydney Morning Herald. “And he did such a good job that he’s got a small role in Furiosa.”
In the 2020 viral video clip, Bayles is shown crying uncontrollably in the back of his mother’s car as he asks for a knife to kill himself.”This is what bullying does,” his mother, Yarraka Bayles, said in the video, livestreamed on Facebook to raise awareness of the impact of bullying. “Can you please educate your children, your families, your friends?”
For people with multiple sclerosis (MS) and other disabilities, getting dressed can be challenging. Navigating buttons or zippers can feel difficult or even some fabrics feel uncomfortable. A lot of adaptive clothing — garments designed to be functional for people with disabilities — focuses heavily on the function. Tommy Hilfiger hoped to change that by offering a line that’s functional but looks as fashionable as his other clothing lines.
“Nobody was doing it and when the idea came to me, I thought it was a natural for us because we are a very inclusive brand and we’re really proud to be leading the way now for adaptive fashion globally,” Tommy Hilfiger told TODAY. “A lot of this has to do with my personal experience as a result of having children on the autistic spectrum and I have firsthand experiencing as far as knowing what their needs are … and understanding the fact that they too would like to be like their peers.”In 2016, Tommy Hilfiger released its line of adaptive clothing for children and in the next year adult clothing was available “as a result of the great response.”
“They need it to function. But they also want to look good and for us it took a bit of studying and due diligence to try to figure out specifically what they would need in terms of function,” he explained. “We were able to use the same design as our mainstream collection but add innovative modifications and make dress easier.”
The brand uses a variety of closures, such as Velcro, magnets and hoop and loop closures, that can be easier to manage. While Hilfiger has personal experience with family members who have disabilities, including his sister who had MS, the company worked with people with disabilities to understand what works best for them.
“We asked a lot of people with disabilities what their preferences would be and we took it very seriously,” he said. “I wanted it to really come out of the gates as being a great collection and it took us quite a while to develop that.”
After people wear the clothes, they might share their thoughts and Hilfiger said that helps them continue to improve upon the design.
“The feedback really helps us to drive the business and the changes,” he said.
In the past, Hilfiger has supported Race to Erase MS, co-founded by Nancy Davis. Her organization has raised money to help drug development for MS. When she was diagnosed 30 years ago, she and others had few options for treatment.
“I had been recently told that I would never walk again and I would never have much freedom in my life and I had a really impossible disease that (doctors) would never find any treatment or cures for, but I decided I wanted to start my own foundation,” she told TODAY. “There’s now 22 drugs on the market that have FDA approval, which is nothing short of a miracle, and it was because of so many people like Tommy Hilfiger and all the different supporters.”
When Davis was diagnosed, she had three young children felt determined to have a different future. She said most people are diagnosed between 20 and 40 when they hit “that stride in their life.”
“I so badly wanted to live my life and had so many dreams and aspirations and they told me the most that I could do in my life is operate the remote control to my TV set,” she said. “It’s scary. It’s the unknown. Today there’s so much hope.”
Even with new medications, though, dressing can still be a challenge for people with MS. Davis recently met with Selma Blair, whom Race to Erase MS honored in the past, and the actress admitted that it took her about 40 minutes to get dressed.
“When you look at how hard it is to get up in the morning and put on clothes it’s really amazing that Tommy was so forward thinking in that he came up with this line that looks beautiful,” she said. “But it makes it very easy for that person who can’t get dressed.”
If you’re living with a disability, small design choices can make a big difference to your quality of life. High bathroom consoles make it hard to wash your hands from a wheelchair; low sofas are hard to get out of when you have a knee condition.
Today, Pottery Barn is launching a furniture collection designed to be accessible to the elderly, the injured, and those living with disabilities, making it one of the first large home brands to do so. In consultation with experts, the company’s designers adapted 150 best-selling styles—from dining tables to office desks—to accommodate a range of disabilities.
Pottery Barn’s Accessible Home line gives consumers more options for furniture that is both functional and stylish. And as a major retailer—whose parent company, Williams-Sonoma, generated $8.2 billion in 2021—this initiative may signal to the rest of the industry that it makes good business sense to design more inclusively.
Marta Benson, Pottery Barn’s president, felt strongly that the brand should launch an accessible home collection after she visited one of its stores, only to find that the bathroom didn’t contain Pottery Barn furniture. When she asked a store designer why, he pointed out that none of Pottery Barn’s bathroom consoles complied with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which requires public bathrooms to have wheelchair-accessible sinks. “I said, ‘Are you kidding me?’” she recalls. “From that moment, I just started tuning into what it means to be inclusive and accessible to all abilities.”
Benson tasked Pottery Barn’s designers with creating modified versions of some of the brand’s most popular products to make them safer and easier for people with disabilities to use. To guide them, she brought in experts from the Disability Education and Advocacy Network, which is led by people with disabilities, as well as designers who specialize in designing for disability.
One of those experts is Lisa Cini, founder and CEO of Mosaic Design Studio, and a leading designer in the field of long-term care and Alzheimer’s. She’s known for a project called the Werner House, a 10,000-square-foot mansion she purchased in 2019 in Columbus, Ohio. Her goal was to explore what it takes to create an inclusive, multigenerational house, and she invited designers and manufacturers to help renovate it. It’s equipped with technology like height-adjustable sinks and toilets, and transitions in flooring to make it easier for people to age in place. Cini herself lives in the house with her elderly parents and makes adjustments based on the family’s everyday experiences.
Cini and the Pottery Barn team used the Werner House to help create the Accessible Home line. “We looked at all the current Pottery Barn products and determined what was most appropriate for the Werner House, but we also identified gaps in the market,” Cini said via email.
In some cases, the designers made small tweaks to existing products. For instance, they redesigned mirrors so they can tilt, making it easier for those in wheelchairs to easily see themselves. They also created modified versions of popular office desks, like the Pacific, Dillon, and Malcolm, with dimensions that accommodate wheelchairs. These desks also feature open storage and shelving, to eliminate the need to grip and pull drawers.
Some products required more elaborate changes. The brand has taken its most popular armchairs—Wells, Irving, Tyler, and Ayden—and adapted them to include power lift, which makes it easier to get in and out of the chair. The chairs are also able to move in every direction, which relieves pressure and stress on the body. The 150 products will be available online and in select stores, and they’ll be the same price point as the original versions.
Click here to read the full article on Fast Company.
In 2021, 77% of workers with disabilities said their employer has done a better job supporting them since the pandemic started. Now, companies are building on that support, with significant increases in leadership and boardroom diversity, according to the 2022 Disability Equality Index report from Disability:IN, a global organization advocating for disability inclusion in the workplace.
“People now understand that disability inclusion is not some kind of ADA compliance issue, but it’s actually a business imperative,” says Ted Kennedy Jr., co-chair of the Disability Equality Index.
“People today want to go to work for companies that they think are doing the right thing, that share their values, and share their vision of the world, [including] making sure that people with disabilities have an equal shot at going to work at that company every single day.”
The Disability Equality Index is a benchmarking assessment, where leaders submit their companies to be scored in areas like technology accessibility, employment practices and culture. This year, the report covered 415 companies, including 69 from the Fortune 100, who were then ranked to identify the best places to work for disability inclusion.
With scores of 100, these companies, along with several others, led the pack:
Bank of America
Increased disability inclusion in leadership is one of the most prominent trends in the report, with 126 companies having a senior executive who is internally known as a person with a disability. In 2021, only 99 companies had this kind of representation at the executive level.
The report also found that 6% of companies now have someone who openly identifies as disabled on their corporate board, and 74% of companies have investments with disability-owned businesses, showing not only an internal change, but an effort to diversify outside relationships as well.
According to Jill Houghton, the president and CEO of Disability:IN, the call for disability inclusion at work, coupled with the “global talent shortage” has made it vital for companies “to rethink how they hire, develop and cultivate talent.”
Ninety-six percent of companies in the report offer flexible work options, making completing certain tasks more accessible and accommodating. Fifty percent are also investing in new technology to help advance digital accessibility.