Questions for employers to get the ball rolling
Employ: Are you ov
erlooking adjacent, but relevant, skills in the hiring process because applicants might have non-traditional backgrounds? Are you actively engaging in a wide variety of disability-friendly and knowledgeable partnerships, like Rangam, Disability:IN, Best Buddies, Leonard Cheshire, to learn about the overwhelming talent and skills that are available among this untapped community of talent?
Enable: Are you ensuring that everyone has the support they need (including financially) to access digital skilling and upskilling opportunities and that you are tailoring your approach to be as inclusive and accessible as possible given the very nuanced nature of disability and neurodiversity? Are you considering apprenticeships as a practical option for these oftentimes hidden workers?
Engage: Are you actively and intentionally engaging with employees with disabilities to meet them where they are currently, and to determine and design – alongside them - the skilling pathways and solutions they need to thrive?
Empower: Are you promoting empowerment and autonomy among your employees with disabilities such that they own this journey, confidently, and can feel safe raising the desire to grow their skills? And are you offering the coaching and mentoring that may be needed along the way to explore and/or apply new skills in current or even enhanced roles – providing the opportunity to experience the impact of their upskilling efforts and achievements?
Digital skills create a win-win situation
When you see employers following the above recommendations, the benefits are clear. My colleague, Zahal, took that position at Accenture Technology five years ago. Not only was he able to build his knowledge of client needs in this space, but he experienced the power of accessible training and accommodations to develop and grow his skills.
For example, his training is delivered using captions and he has sign language interpreters for one-on-one discussions and town hall meetings. He has also benefited from having colleagues who seek to understand to adapt their ways of collaborating. “One senior colleague even re-created a four-hour training session just for me,” explains Zahal. “So I could understand it better” Zahal is now trained in several tools including Ariba (procurement), ABACUS, Power BI, SMART and agile practices. Learning to use these tools not only unlocked his potential to thrive but also drives long-lasting value to clients.
The need for digital workers is growing with no sign of slowing down. In the US alone, the tech sector is a prolific job generator, with 682,800 new jobs projected in the United States by 2031. Yet the nation’s unemployment rate for people with disabilities is two times higher than for those without. This, despite the creativity, innovation, diverse perspectives, and other known benefits that come with employing persons with disabilities.
Closing the gap we discovered in our research—what executives think they’re doing to create a supportive, inclusive environment versus what employees with disabilities reported experiencing—is a call for change. Ensuring equitable and accessible upskilling opportunities for all is critical to not only ensuring that employees are put on the path to thrive but also to help meet this growing demand for digital workers. It’s a win-win for everyone.