July 2nd, 2012

Share Everywhere

Review of ODEP Guide for Inclusion of People With Disabilities in the Workplace (Part 5)


Do the brochures and other materials about the company you work for reflect a culture that is inclusive of people with disabilities?

The next section of the Office of Disability Employment Policy’s guide, “Business Strategies That Work: A Framework for Disability Inclusion,” (PDF) focuses on the internal and external communication of many of the strategies and goals set forth in earlier sections.

Many of the strategies seem like common sense: announcing newly crafted policy statements in company newsletters, internal emails, etc., and then making sure they have a visible place on the intranet and printed materials; making sure any vendors, subcontractors, or other external organizations affiliated with the company are aware of the policies as well, and maintaining constant communicating with partnering groups that aid with the recruitment, training, and hiring of people with disabilities.

More importantly, however, the section entitled “Communicate: External and Internal Communication of Company Policies and Practices” emphasizes the inclusion of individuals with disabilities in these endeavors. It’s one thing to write a policy statement committing to a diverse workforce, but a company must validate that through actions as well. This includes the following:

— Establishing a disability employee resource group (ERG) aligned with the company’s diversity program and composed of existing employees with disabilities and employees with family members or friends with disabilities.

— Ensuring that people with disabilities are among those represented in the company’s decision-making bodies, including the board of directors.

We’ve previously pointed to ERGs as one of the elements that make Sam’s Club and Sodexo some of the most inclusive workplaces for people with disabilities; and, of course, it’s no coincidence that companies, like Aetna and Walgreens, where top level executives with a personal interest in employing people with disabilities, are some of the more aggressive in their recruiting efforts. It’s worth noting that these companies are all considered leaders within their industry in terms of financial success.

Visual communication is equally important as verbal when it comes to a company demonstrating it walks the walk as well as talks the talk; thus, the Communication section of “Business Strategies That Work” also provides the following suggestions for more practical, everyday inclusion:

— Including images of employees with disabilities in employee handbooks and other internal publications that feature photographs of employees.

— Including individuals with visible disabilities when employees are pictured in consumer, promotional, or ‘help wanted’ advertising.

Letting individuals with disabilities see themselves characterized in marketing efforts is critical in creating that culture of inclusion. Organizers and contributors to film festivals like Sprout and ReelAbilities know all too well how infrequently and inaccurately this population is represented in mainstream media; but when they are, the impact is not only positive on the internal culture, but as Target stores and the PBS television program “Upstairs, Downstairs” know, it can make a difference in attracting consumers to the product.


Image by Mr. T in DC, used under its Creative Commons license.

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