2021 was a prominent year for DE&I efforts across businesses nationwide. Hybrid work not only helped with issues like workplace discrimination, but ushered in a more accessible environment for disabled workers.
According to a recent Adobe survey of 1,000 full-time workers, part-time workers, and students based in the U.S. — including respondents with and without disabilities, employers have done a better job supporting disability needs, but improvements can be made to etiquette education, recruitment and retention.
With 1 in 4 American adults (61 million) identifying as disabled, according to the CDC, it's important for employers to have policies and initiatives that prioritize and empower workers with disabilities. The start of the Covid-19 pandemic caused workplaces to be more intentional in creating workplace inclusivity, and many survey respondents noticed a major change. In fact, among people with disabilities, over three-quarters say their workplace is doing a better job of supporting them (77%), while a similar number of people say their co-workers are considerate of their unique needs.
But though progress has been made, there is still room for improvement. About 70% of respondents with disabilities rated their organization's disability etiquette training as "fair," which indicates that improvements are needed. In addition, more training was embraced by others, with 77% of employees interested in learning more about the impact of mental wellness and how to work with diverse learning styles.
The majority of survey respondents without a disability (82%) say they frequently or sometimes consider the accessibility needs of their coworkers with disabilities. However, the remaining 18% report that they rarely or never consider the accessibility needs of their coworkers.
Regardless of disability status, 84% of those surveyed feel co-workers would benefit from workplace accessibility. According to EARN, the employer assistance and research network on disability inclusion, workplace accessibility isn't limited to just physical accessibility; it includes digitally accessible information and communication technology as well. Accessibility at work is also valuable for business owners.
"It's not only people with disabilities who benefit from accessible workplaces. Accessible workplaces help businesses increase productivity; ensure a wider pool of talent can apply for, maintain and advance in employment; and expand their potential customer base," EARN says on their website.
The majority of members of the disability community surveyed by Adobe (almost 3 in 4) say that accessibility and inclusivity benefits are a deciding factor in evaluating a job opportunity. Most millennials, with and without a disability, found these benefits particularly important, with 80% citing them as a major decision-making factor.
As Americans are increasingly quitting their jobs in the current "Great Resignation," the pressure is on for employers to improve their initiatives to retain staff. Among people with disabilities, mental health support was a leading area of interest, with 73% identifying it as a major concern, compared to 33% of those without disabilities.
Access to hybrid work was also a major deciding factor among employees, especially with the ongoing pandemic. Adobe found that 46% of the general population first look at a companies' hybrid and remote work policies when deciding about an employment opportunity. This was even more favorable amongst the disability community, with 58% preferring remote and hybrid workplaces.