Starting a Disability Employee Resource Group (ERG)

Sheri Byrne-Haber, CPACC
5 min readJun 20, 2019

Last week, I wrote about how important disability-focused employee resource groups are to creating an environment where employees with disabilities feel comfortable disclosing them and in turn helping others. This week I’m going to describe some steps to take to build or relaunch one.

Red “U” shaped magnet with a white wheelchair symbol on it attracting metallic cartoon figurines

What is an ERG anyways?

Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) are voluntary, employee-led groups that help to foster a diverse and inclusive workplace aligned with the organization’s mission and values. ERG group membership is typically rooted in some common characteristic such as gender, veteran’s status, age, disabilities, ethnicity or geographic location. To be an ERG member, one should either have one of the common characteristics in question or be an ally of those with the common characteristics and want to be seen as publicly supporting that group. The point of ERGs is to be inclusive, you would not want to exclude men from a women’s ERG, able-bodied people from disability ERGs, or straight allies from an LGBTQ+ ERG.

ERG leaders and participants can:

  • provide/receive support
  • enhance career development
  • obtain professional networking, and;
  • increase their personal development in the workplace

I have personally found ERG leadership is a really good activity to face professional fears — public speaking or having difficult conversations for example. Having a passion about a topic and a safe space makes it easier for one to confront those barriers that have been looming in front of their continued professional development.

For the organization, ERGs:

  • develop future leaders
  • increase employee engagement, and;
  • improve recruiting in the areas the ERGs focus on

How do ERGs help People with Disabilities?

Some of the common reasons cited by people as reasons they chose not to disclose a hidden disability in the workplace include:

  • Stigma
  • Concern about mis-perceptions.
  • Denial
  • Lack of Awareness
Sheri Byrne-Haber, CPACC

LinkedIn Top Voice for Social Impact 2022. UX Collective Author of the Year 2020. Disability Inclusion SME. Sr Staff Accessibility Architect @ VMware.