Companies urged to create global disability inclusion strategy

?Global brands are struggling to serve the needs of disabled people by not developing an inclusive strategy for their employees.

According to a Business Disability Forum study, just 20% of the 120 brands assessed had a global strategy for disability inclusion in place and resourced.

Common barriers to creating a strategy were cultural differences in the way disability is understood, levels of engagement with disability and accessibility in some countries, legal requirements and gaining the commitment from local managers.

Organisations which have tackled these challenges reported an 80% improvement for disabled colleagues and customers on a global scale.

This demonstrates a change in attitude of disabilities in the workplace, with over 90% of businesses now recognising the importance of disabled employees and customers.

The study used evidence and case studies from companies including Shell, Unilever, Accenture and Microsoft.

Workplace adjustments, recruitment and onboarding were the areas of businesses which had the most improvement in disability inclusion.

These were followed by buildings and built environments, digital technology and retention and development of employees.

The areas with the least inclusive progression were communication and marketing, customer or client experience and procurement and supply chain.

Diane Lightfoot, CEO of Business Disability Forum, said introducing a disability strategy would help businesses achieve a positive change for their workforce and customers.

She said: “Disabled people are expected to be more disadvantaged by the impact of COVID-19 than non-disabled people, particularly in developing countries. This is an opportunity for global business to make a positive difference,” she said.

“Introducing a corporate-wide policy on disability inclusion is a sensible place to start and the roadmap included in this report is designed to help businesses get on the right track.”

The report highlighted key lessons for HR to consider when introducing a new policy, such as choosing a senior global disability champion to drive forward the strategy and recognising how disability impacts every area of the organisation.

Lyn Lee, chief diversity and inclusion officer at Shell, said: “While most leaders of organisations will agree that disability inclusion is the right thing to do, there are challenges and barriers which many need to address.

“We hope this research into best practices will create impact collectively through collaboration and partnership, and benefit companies as they develop global strategies to do more for people with disabilities.”