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Centering accessibility and belonging for a more inclusive and profitable business 
August 16, 2023

By Jewelle Saunders

Knowing all of the benefits of prioritizing diversity, equity and inclusion in your business, you must continually consider the sustainability of these initiatives. In 2021, President Biden signed an executive order directing federal agencies to take action to advance diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility (DEIA) within their organizations. 

This championing of inclusive technology sets an example for businesses and organizations to refocus their efforts in diversity and inclusion to include accessibility as a key feature within their businesses. The goal of these efforts is to create and foster a culture of belonging, where every person in an organization feels welcome. Increasing diversity and focusing on inclusion in your workforce is the best first step to change, but unless you have accessibility and create a culture of belonging, those efforts will fall short. Here’s what you need to know about bringing accessibility and belonging into the forefront of your business. 

Why accessibility is a key factor in business

Accessibility ensures that all individuals, including those with disabilities, have equal access to resources and opportunities. Accessibility is about making sure all people, regardless of disability status, have the tools necessary to enjoy the same products and services as others. This can include physical accommodations, language services and accessible digital technology. For all individuals involved in your business, employees and customers, there should be appropriate accommodations for all to access information and services as anyone else would. 

According to Accenture, persons with disabilities are largely underemployed, but there are many benefits to disability inclusion efforts, such as increased innovation, improved productivity, access to new suppliers, and better brand reputation and loyalty. The four key actions they recommend to center accessibility in your organization are as follows: 

  • Employ – Ensure persons with disabilities are recruited, hired and represented within the workplace. 
  • Enable – Provide employees with accessible tools, technology, solutions and accommodations to ensure they feel supported. 
  • Engage – Cultivate broader awareness through disability education programs, DEIA action and resource groups, and recruitment efforts. 
  • Empower – Encourage leadership and growth with proper skills training and opportunities for advancement for all people with disabilities. 

How to cultivate workplace belonging

Belonging is key to job satisfaction and overall employee morale. According to Achievers Workforce Institute, companies that invest in fostering a strong sense of belonging see a 3x return on business outcomes such as productivity, engagement and job commitment. When employers successfully create a culture of belonging, employees feel more connected and engaged in their businesses, resulting in better retention and effectiveness. 

To cultivate workplace belonging, employers and managers should focus on the following five pillars of belonging. Any individual you involve and interact with in your business, whether virtual or in person, interacting daily or weekly, from CFOs to entry-level employees, should all feel a sense of belonging stemming from these five intentional attributes. 

  • Welcomed – Provide recognition, an understanding of organizational culture and community, and structured onboarding to new team members. 
  • Known – Encourage virtual and in-person social events, embrace pronoun sharing, listen to employees on their preferred working conditions and recommendations. 
  • Included – Gather, share and exact employee feedback, as well as consider employee resource groups, and encourage social events where everyone is invited. 
  • Supported – Equip employees with a sense of empowerment with training and opportunities to grow, promote a healthy work-life balance, and have a commitment to addressing and overcoming challenges. 
  • Connected – Develop and maintain relationships across a diverse organizational population and foster relationships within a diverse and inclusive workforce. 

Recognizing we’re better together

Diversity, equity, inclusion, accessibility and belonging are concepts that challenge us to see the full humanity of our neighbors, recognize their past and present contributions to our communities, and create more opportunities for all people. The work is ongoing, and there is even more to learn about how to foster belonging within your businesses with new #YLAI4All resources.