Make no mistake: Accessibility and inclusivity is good for business. Very good. So good that when decision-makers first get the facts about hiring people with disabilities, an “aha” moment always follows. From getting more competitive to enriching your work culture, this post shares 10 compelling reasons to embrace accessibility and inclusivity.
One billion people, or 15 percent of the world’s population, experience some form of disability.1 In Canada, 22 percent of people over age 15 live with at least one disability—that’s over six million adults!2
Before we jump into our 10 reasons, let’s define our terms. Most disabilities are not obvious, which explains why we don’t notice the prevalence of people living with them. World Health Organization defines a disability as a complex phenomenon, reflecting the interaction between features of a person’s body and features of the society in which he or she lives. In fact, millions of people use technology to overcome diverse challenges, every day, to live and work with great success.
First and foremost, people with disabilities make outstanding employees. Businesses that struggle to find and retain great people should welcome this new source of talent. By making their hiring practices and workplace more accessible and inclusive, these businesses can find highly committed and skilled professionals to join their team.
Make sure you talk to your HR team about making your hiring practices and workplace more accessible and inclusive. Then communicate your commitment in your marketing!
People with disabilities make great customers, too. Return on Disability estimates that Canadians with disabilities have CAD $55.4 billion in annual discretionary purchasing power. Don’t make the mistake of ignoring them! By broadening their services and products to include everyone, businesses can drive incremental sales growth.
3. User experience
At Microsoft, we’ve found that many of our accessibility-focused innovations and features allow us to deliver richer more flexible experiences for a wider range of users, not just those with disabilities. Smart businesses can do the same, improving their experience for all customers by making their services and products more accessible.
Inclusive design is a methodology that can help companies make their products and services more accessible and inclusive for everyone.
How depends on the business. A restaurant might need to introduce adjustable tables for guests using wheelchairs. A law firm may need to redesign its contracts, and maybe its website, to make it work better for all its clients. Banks may need to add audio assistance or biometric readers to make their next generation of ATMs more accessible. The good news is that all these “accommodations” ultimately translate into design improvements that benefit everyone.
In fact, for businesses looking for competitive differentiation, inclusive design can unlock huge opportunity. That’s because the creativity required for inclusive design often inspires remarkable innovation. Take audio books, for example. Originally promoted as a means of making books accessible for people with visual disabilities, this convenient way of enjoying books has gone on to become popular worldwide.
Inclusive design has provided companies like Microsoft with the inspiration to leverage artificial intelligence, biometrics, edge computing, touch and other transformative technologies in powerful new ways.
Speaking of universal appeal, businesses that embrace accessibility and inclusivity soon turn to platforms like Office 365 and Windows 10. These best-in-class tools come loaded with built-in accessibility and inclusivity features that, once again, benefit everyone’s day-to-day productivity—not just employees with disabilities.
Searching for a productivity boost across your company? Choose best-in-class tools with built-in accessibility and inclusivity features.
Another great reason to introduce accessibility and inclusivity at your company is because it’s the right thing to do, ethically-speaking. Customers respond better to companies and business leaders who take the time to care. BC’s Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation reports that almost 90 percent of consumers prefer companies that employ people with disabilities.
Employees like it, too. Business cultures that embrace accessibility and inclusivity benefit from more than just acquiring and retaining top talent. They enrich their culture with sensitivity and openness. Employees feel a sense of pride working for a company that takes a principled stand when it comes to treating everyone as equals.
Find your future brand ambassadors! Ask employees with disabilities to help you design your accessibility and inclusivity strategy.
But wait—what about the cost of hiring people with disabilities? In its research, the Job Accommodation Network reports that 57 percent of businesses who hired people with disabilities were not required to pay anything to accommodate them. And when they did, they reported an average, one-time cost of just US $500. This data flies in the face of what many business owners might assume.
A little earlier, we mentioned the importance of communicating your commitment to accessibility and inclusivity in your marketing. The business opportunity is to differentiate your brand by making it matter more to your customers and employees. While it may seem “touch-feely,” great brands align themselves with their audiences on profound, emotional levels by authentically expressing their values.
The last reason to embrace accessibility and inclusivity is for yourself. At some point, almost all of us live with a disability—through accident, illness, or aging. Situational or not, from one day to the next, any one of us could find ourselves living with a disability, like six million other Canadian adults do. In this way, advancing accessibility and inclusivity benefits everyone, including the future you.
Ready for the full story?
Download your copy of The Invisible Opportunity ebook from Microsoft. This free ebook expands on this post with more useful facts about people with disabilities, their performance as employees, their purchasing power as customers, and how they benefit organizations across Canada.