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
- Capital One
- Goldman Sachs
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.
Kennedy Jr., who is a pediatric bone cancer survivor and amputee, says that companies that have made the effort to create these equitable workspaces are "making a commitment at the highest level" to support and uplift their disabled talent.
"Individuals with disabilities are extremely adaptive and creative because they've had to be creative and adaptive to different environments, their whole lives," Kennedy Jr. tells CNBC Make It. "There's also much less turnover with employees with disabilities. They're just so grateful to have a job and somebody to give them a chance, that they're going to be extremely loyal."