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Time for disability inclusion to rise up the corporate agenda

According to World Economic Forum figures, approximately 1.3 billion people in the world live with a visible or non-visible disability. That’s roughly 17% of the global population and means that people with disabilities are the largest minority group worldwide. Yet despite the significance of this demographic, much remains to be done to help advance the rights and wellbeing of people with disabilities – including within the workplace, where disability inclusion can often fall at the end of a long list of other diversity, equity and inclusion priorities.

It’s for this reason that the United Nations declared 3 December the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. The day is also an opportunity to reflect on the challenges that this diverse and talented group still face today, including in the workplace.

The majority of disabilities are typically acquired during working age, and yet research provides ample evidence of how more can be done to help empower every working-age person with a disability to make their full contribution to the world of work. Higher unemployment, inequitable pay and limited career progression can be persistent—and, frankly, unacceptable—issues, as can be discrimination and prejudice.

At Deloitte, we are focussed on providing everyone with equal opportunities to grow, develop and succeed. Disability inclusion has been a focus for the firms across our global network for some time—from accessibility plans to coaching programmes, scholarships and internships—and it is now also a core tenet of Deloitte’s global diversity, equity and inclusion strategy.

Deloitte’s global approach to disability inclusion follows the ‘social model’—which is to say that people are disabled by barriers in society, not by their impairment or difference. We are therefore focussed on providing workplace environments in which all Deloitte people can thrive – this includes providing the right tools and resources for colleagues with disabilities. It also means educating colleagues on disability inclusion—not just on being disability inclusive, but also on the types of disability (including long-term chronic health conditions) that can exist.

Approximately 415,000 people work across Deloitte firms around the world and we understand our responsibility to foster disability inclusion not just in the workplace but also more broadly. It’s for this reason that Deloitte Global became a signatory to the Valuable 500, at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in January 2019, signaling our global commitment to and leadership focus on helping advance disability inclusion.

But Deloitte also recognises that inclusion goes beyond programmes and policies, as essential as these may be. My personal conviction is that inclusive cultures are built, day after day, through respectful behaviours and allyship. This is why we also focus on education—helping everyone at Deloitte to put themselves in the place of colleagues with disabilities so that they may feel seen, heard and understood.

One example of how we’re aiming to raise awareness is through sharing stories of lived experiences. The story of Thiago, a wheelchair user, is part of Deloitte Global’s award-winning Can You See Me? series of films. While the character is fictional and portrayed by an actor with a similar lived experience, the film represents the authentic stories of many people and was created to help people understand that we are all a sum of our parts and experiences—and that our words and actions can have an impact on others.

Through this parallel approach of prioritising the right tools and resources for colleagues with disabilities—together with a focus on providing an everyday inclusive culture based on respect—Deloitte aims to provide a workplace environment in which everybody can thriveꟷin every country, in everything we do, every day.