New study shows way ahead for business as disability importance grows

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A new study of 120 global brands shows how over 90% of businesses are recognising the importance of disability in business with employees and customers.

The study is the first to consider how businesses are serving the needs of disabled people at a global and local level and how to share best practice.

Named ‘Towards a Disability-Smart World: Developing a global disability inclusion strategy’, the study was conducted by Business Disability Forum in partnership with energy company Royal Dutch Shell. 

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It draws on evidence and case studies from the experience of organisations including Shell, Unilever, HSBC, Accenture and Microsoft.


The report shows that:

•             More than 90% of respondents state that ‘disability inclusion is the right thing to do’ at a global level.

•             More than 80% state that it allows them to access a wider pool of talent, drives employee motivation, has an impact on sales and opportunities and supports business objectives.

Yet, whilst more than 80% of respondents say that their organisation had made one or more commitment to disability inclusion at a central level, only about 20% of respondents had a global strategy for disability inclusion in place and resourced.

The study identifies several common barriers to creating a global strategy for disability inclusion. These include:

•             Cultural differences in the way disability is understood.

•             Levels of engagement with disability and accessibility in some countries.

•             Varying legal requirements between countries.

•             Resources and systematic data collection.

•             Gaining the commitment of local champions and managers.

Diane Lightfoot, CEO of the Business Disability Forum, said: “As recent times have demonstrated, we are living in a global world and there is more need than ever before for businesses to respond to disability inclusion at a corporate-wide level. This study shows that businesses are recognising that need, but often face common barriers when responding to it.

“Based on the experiences of 120 leading global brands, we want to offer organisations practical advice on how they can overcome those challenges and achieve positive change for their workforce and customers alike.”

While Lyn Lee, chief diversity and inclusion officer at Shell, said: “While most leaders of organisations will agree that disability inclusion is the right thing to do, there are challenges and barriers which many need to address. We hope this research into best practices will create impact collectively through collaboration and partnership, and benefit companies as they develop global strategies to do more for people with disabilities.”


The study shows that workplace adjustments, along with recruitment and onboarding, are the areas where businesses have made the most progress in disability inclusion. These were followed by buildings and built environments; digital technology; and retention and development of employees. Communication and marketing; customer or client experience; and procurement and supply chain, were the areas where there is the least evidence of progression.

Reflecting on the findings, Lightfoot said: “Disabled people are expected to be more disadvantaged by the impact of Covid-19 than non-disabled people; particularly in developing countries. This is an opportunity for global business to make a positive difference.

“Introducing a corporate-wide policy on disability inclusion is a sensible place to start and the roadmap included in this report is designed to help businesses get on the right track.”

The study, ‘Towards a Disability-Smart World: Developing a global disability inclusion strategy’, and the accompanying roadmap, can be downloaded on Business Disability Forum’s Knowledge Hub.

Today, AMP reported on a Sigma report calling on businesses not to forget accessibility as they reopen.

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Tags : businessdisability
Alex Douglas

The author Alex Douglas

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