CHICAGO, Oct. 19, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — The number of adult Americans with disabilities is 26% of the population and growing. Job losses for this group, which have long outpaced unemployment for Americans without disabilities, have climbed during the COVID-19 pandemic. As we rebuild the economy, Easterseals is asking U.S. businesses to commit to diverse, inclusive and just workplaces where employees with disabilities are included, valued and paid fair wages.
This national nonprofit services provider and advocacy leader —which is dedicated to people with physical and intellectual disabilities, veterans, seniors and their families—has launched its initiative to respond to employment disparities that have challenged people with disabilities for decades and have been exacerbated by the pandemic. Its introduction coincides with the 75th observance of the U.S. Department of Labor’s National Disability Employment Awareness Month.
«The pandemic has shown employers how efficiently we all can work remotely with the proper resources, eliminating many of the inequities that keep people with disabilities from performing at their full potential,» said Easterseals President and CEO Angela F. Williams.
«Yet at the same time, COVID-19 layoffs have dealt workplace diversity a setback. Without a commitment to disability rights, the wage gap between workers with and without disabilities will grow even wider. Our challenge going forward is to ensure the workplace, as it rebuilds, respects the dignity and productivity of employees with disabilities.»
Website Guides Employers in Building Workplace Diversity, Accessibility & Equity
The website easterseals.com/disabilityequity lists 10 steps to help companies reach disability equity by 2030 by increasing job opportunities, ensuring workplace accessibility and creating a culture that welcomes and values people with disabilities. Easterseals also offers job training and employment programs nationwide and a Veteran Staffing Network to assist in recruiting.
A truly inclusive workplace considers diversity not only in hiring but also physical and mental health support services, advertising and charitable giving. One in four adults in the U.S. live with a disability from loss of mobility, cognition, hearing and/or vision, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Employment discrimination laws cover the 11 million American workers with disabilities. Yet people with a disability are less likely to earn a full-time wage–32% of workers with a disability usually work part-time, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says, compared to 17% of workers with no disability. The shortage of full-time work contributes to an overall 34% earnings gap between workers with and without disabilities.
Tellingly, the U.S Census Bureau says many full-time occupations also reflect this pay gap for employees with disabilities including CEOs, lawyers, marketing and sales and financial analysts. The wage gap is one of the toughest issues facing people with disabilities, who have additional living expenses for health care, personal services, transportation and other accommodations.
A 1% increase in workers with disabilities would raise gross domestic product as much as $25 billion, the consulting firm Accenture found. Companies identified as leaders in disability and inclusion are more profitable than their peers. Yet one study featured in the Harvard Business Review finds that only 4% of companies consider disability in their workplace diversity plans.
All In: The Disability Equity Pledge
Easterseals invites all employers in corporate America to participate in its 10-point plan to make a diverse and inclusive workplace a reality:
- Achieve Disability Equity in the Workplace. Not Just Diversity. Introduce a written retention and advancement policy that demonstrates a commitment to recruiting, hiring, retaining and promoting employees with disabilities.
- Reduce the Pay Gap. Increase wages of employees with disabilities to industry standards.
- Advocate for Better Part-Time Benefits. Review part-time benefits programs with employees with disabilities in mind. Create a plan that better accommodates part-time employees with disabilities.
- Require Digital Accessibility and Inclusion. Assess remote capabilities for employees with disabilities and adopt a plan to provide flexible work options.
- Measure and Publicly Report Disability Equity Performance. Define accountable measures consistent with this pledge and agree to release an annual public report with new goals and objectives for the upcoming year.
- Include People with Disabilities in Marketing. Require that people with disabilities have an appropriate presence in marketing, advertising and social media.
- Make Invisible Disabilities Like Mental Health Visible and Acceptable. Introduce employee assistance programs (EAPs) to ensure workers feel comfortable in disclosing their disabilities.
- Refocus Philanthropic Giving to Areas That Drive Disability Equity. Direct a percentage of charitable giving to advance economic sustainability among people with disabilities, specifically focusing on employment support and job training.
- Eliminate Workplace Microaggressions and Misunderstandings. Create a culture of community. Introduce programming to educate employees and achieve understanding and support for people with disabilities.
- Sign Up and Take the Disability Equality Index Survey. Participate in the annual Disability:IN benchmark report to assess progress towards disability equity.
Easterseals is committed to changing the way the world defines and views disability and building an equitable work environment for all people with disabilities. Take the pledge at easterseals.com/disabilityequity.
Easterseals has served as an indispensable resource for individuals with disabilities, veterans, seniors and their families for more than 100 years. Together, its 67 affiliates in communities nationwide serve 1.5 million people annually through high-quality programs, including autism services, early intervention, workforce development and adult day care. Driven by its purpose to change the way the world defines and views disability, Easterseals makes profound, positive differences in people’s lives every day. Learn more at easterseals.com
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