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Global Report on Disability Inclusion Published

October 12, 2017
Source: US Business Leadership Network (USBLN)

A first-of-its-kind study published by the Center for Talent Innovation (CTI) in partnership with US Business Leadership Network (USBLN) finds that far more people than expected have a disability: In the U.S., 30 percent of college-educated employees working full-time in white-collar professions. CTI's report Disabilities and Inclusion has uncovered that employees with disabilities make up an enormous global talent pool that employers overlook far too often — to their own detriment.

The study also uncovered reasons that employees with disabilities have remained under the radar. Sixty-two percent of employees with disabilities have “invisible disabilities” — people can't tell they have a disability upon meeting them. Millennials make up 44% of employees with mental health conditions.

“From our interviews and focus groups, we learned that people with disabilities are particularly innovative. In order to navigate the world with a disability, they have to problem-solve each day. They can contribute this gift to their employers, but only if they know they will be recognized and rewarded for it,” says Julia Taylor Kennedy, executive vice president and director of publications at CTI.

The study also explores what it is like to be an employee with a disability (or an employer of individuals with disabilities) in five key markets for multinational companies: Brazil, Germany, India, Japan, and the United Kingdom. The study provides government definitions of disability, most recent legislation, and legal requirements for employers in each of the five markets.

The study provides valuable global insights. In India, the incidence of visible disabilities among survey respondents in India is higher compared to the US (49% vs. 13% in the US), which may be why the disclosure rates to HR are also high. In Brazil, because of federal quotas, college-educated people with disabilities are highly sought after in Brazil — and are likely to disclose to HR. The UK seems to be ahead of the curve when it comes to invisible disabilities. There are higher disclosure rates to HR for invisible disabilities than in the US (29% in the UK sample vs. 13% in the US), and 34% of those in the UK sample who have mental health conditions feel they're being promoted quickly.

“How do we build great products and services with disability in mind? Disability is part of being human. We're creating products for humans. We need to find ways for all humans to use our technology to support their work every day,” says Jenny Lay-Flurrie, Chief Accessibility Officer at Microsoft.

The implications of the research for companies is clear. Employers who want to elicit the best ideas from their people should rely on inclusive leadership — and this carries extra relevance for leaders of people with disabilities.

“Whether it's within the workforce, or through supplier diversity, there are many opportunities to tap into this global talent pool,” says Jill Houghton, President and Chief Executive Officer at USBLN. “We live in an increasingly interconnected world, and as we grow business, we should ensure inclusivity and the opportunity to hire innovative talent.”

How? The study recommends inclusive leadership, disclosure training, understanding signals of support, and the Disability Equality Index (DEI). The DEI is a leading benchmarking tool that provides an objective score and roadmap on disability inclusion policies and practices for Fortune 500-1000 companies.

“Now that we know employees with disabilities make up nearly a third of the white-collar workforce, employers simply can't afford to ignore this crucial talent cohort,” says Laura Sherbin, co-president of CTI and a managing partner of Hewlett Consulting Partners. “By understanding employees with disabilities — and listening to their ideas — companies can unlock enormous potential.”

For more information on the key findings of the report “Disabilities and Inclusion,” please visit the Center for Talent Innovation at

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