On Tuesday, global business collective The Valuable 500 (Valuable) announced reaching its goal of having 500 international businesses commit to greater disability inclusionValuable announced in a press release.

The complete list of companies is available on the Valuable website. It boasts some big names, including Apple, BP, Johnson & Johnson, P&G, Sony, Twitter, and Virgin Media. The list includes 36 of the FTSE 100 companies, 46 of the Fortune 500, and 28 of the Nikkei. That’s noteworthy, given that recent research by Valuable and Tortoise Media concluded “there are no executives or senior managers who have disclosed a disability in company reporting by the FTSE 100,” and that only 12 per cent of total FTSE employees have disclosed a disability. 

While it’s not clear what the businesses will be doing, all companies that commit to the Valuable 500 have pledged to:

  • Table disability on the board agenda
  • Make one firm commitment to action
  • Share their commitment to The Valuable 500 internally and externally

The organizations supporting the cause have a combined revenue of over $8 trillion and over 20 million employees across 36 countries, Valuable says.

MANY DIVERSITY INITIATIVES OVERLOOK DISABILITY

“It’s no longer good enough for companies to say ‘disability doesn’t fit with our brand’ or ‘it’s a good idea to explore next year’,” Valuable founder Caroline Casey wrote in 2019.

“If disability inclusion is not on your board agenda, then neither is diversity.”

The push towards more visibility and inclusion for disabled workers remains an ongoing struggle. While there has been a recent surge of corporate diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) statements and efforts, many centre around race and gender and fail to truly incorporate the many intersecting identities that represent today’s workforce.

A December analysis of international data by Valuable, for example, outlines the invisibility of disability issues. According to the report, only 3 per cent of media articles discussing diversity reference disability, a statistic that has only risen by 1 per cent over the past five years.

According to the World Economic Forum, approximately 15 per cent of the population (1 in 7 people) live with some form of disability. And while a large portion of this group can work, it remains an underemployed segment.

In the European Union, about 60 per cent of disabled people are employed, compared to 82 per cent of the general population, the World Economic Forum says.

In the U.S., the stat is 37 per cent compared to 77 per cent, and an estimated 645,000 Canadians who are living with disabilities are unable to find work, despite being qualified to do so.

Workers with disabilities tend to earn less than their non-disabled colleagues. There are many reasons for this, but one can be attributed to employer reluctance to create accommodations, thereby preventing disabled employees from taking part in career-building workshops, training sessions, and travel opportunities.

DISABILITY AND RACE

Conversations around disability are incomplete if they fail to acknowledge and combat racial disparities.

2016 analysis of data from 7,993 individuals aged 21 and older from the 2012 National Health Interview Survey found non-Hispanic Black Americans were more likely to live with a severe disability than non-Hispanic whites.

“The study findings highlighted the role of socioeconomic characteristics in reducing disparities in disability between non-Hispanic African Americans and non-Hispanic whites,” the paper reads.

Disability also disproportionately affects Indigenous communities due in large part to racism in healthcare systems.

In 2017 in Canada, 32 per cent of First Nations people living off-reserve, 30 per cent of Métis, and 19 per cent of Inuit had one or more disabilities that limited daily activities, according to the Government of Canada.

Across the entire population, the prevalence of disability in Canada in 2017 was 22 per cent.

About 28 per cent of people with severe disabilities in Canada’s 25 to 64 year age group are more likely to live in poverty, compared to 10 per cent of Canadians with no disabilities, and 14 per cent of Canadians with mild disabilities.