Today’s workforce expects public sector employers to be inclusive. For people with disabilities, like spinal cord injuries (SCI), this is good news. Those who work for federal government employers are protected by a 2021 executive order known as DEIA, or diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility. This legislation mandates employers to consider diversity when hiring, equity with opportunities for advancement, and inclusion and accessibility on the job.
Diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility aren’t new ideas in the workplace. Earlier legislation promoted the practice in federal offices, too, and American minorities have fought for their place in the workforce for decades against discrimination based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and disability.
The new legislation is described as “more concentrated, and dedicated focus on civil rights compliance and mitigation, as well as DEIA accountability, competencies, and transparency.” Employers have figured out that diversity is a factor in conducting a successful business, and in recent years they have taken steps toward making the workplace more inclusive and even worked toward attracting a diverse staff, too.
A good business not only implements these practices with employees but considers similar values in dealing with the public, such as regarding the diverse needs of customers and clients.
DEIA starts with inclusive hiring practices and goes on to encourage diverse representation in leadership positions. It implements and creates inclusive policies and practices and promotes cultural competency both in the workplace and toward clients. DEIA also mandates the provision of accommodations for individuals with disabilities.
These practices encourage diversity and discourage pay disparities, unequal access to opportunities, and discrimination. Businesses that implement DEIA often require employees to attend diversity and inclusion training as well as create accommodations for people with disabilities, which could include the creation of accessible websites, documents, and the implementation of assistive technology.
Accessibility in the workplace involves much more than an accessible ramp or bathroom. According to the DEIA strategic plan’s accessibility roadmap, “Agencies must consistently design, construct, develop, and maintain facilities, technology, programs, and services from the onset so that all people, including people with disabilities, can fully and independently use them.” This statement means that agencies are responsible for educating their workforce and for the integration of information technology accessibility into existing business methodology.
The legislation echoes the earlier ethos of Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 that required agencies to ensure that the information and communication technology they develop, purchase, maintain or use is accessible to people with disabilities. With recent technology developments, the workplace is more accessible now than ever.
Just like employers need diverse demographics when it comes to race and gender, employers need people with disabilities. A workforce that reflects the population it serves is a successful one, for obvious reasons, and there are many people with disabilities seeking services.
Research is available showing diverse teams outperform all other teams in terms of innovation and problem-solving. Companies with diversity have above-average profitability, improved employee engagement and retention, and broader customer base and market reach.
People with disabilities have plenty to bring to the workforce, and with adequately implemented DEIA strategies, they can be afforded the opportunity to thrive there.
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