The Importance of Disability Employee Resource Groups

Do you bring your “authentic self” to work? Most people with disabilities don’t, especially those with invisible disabilities. Disability ERGs can help with that.

Cartoon human cutouts grouped under signs with the wheelchair symbol under them
  • Burden of proof. To receive a reasonable accommodation for a hidden disability, you need an official diagnosis, which requires trips to the doctor, and possible tests. Those costs aren’t going to be covered by the employer.
  • Social stigma and concern about mis-perceptions. Employees might choose not to disclose their disability status to avoid awkwardness at work over being treated differently, which could be potentially viewed as unfair or inequitable by co-workers.
  • The mistaken believe that temporary disabilities aren’t “real” disabilities

These five major reasons for keeping disabilities hidden are clearly costing employers

Employees with disabilities who disclose their disability are more than twice as likely to feel regularly happy or content at work than employees with disabilities who have not disclosed to anyone (65% versus 27%). They are also less likely to regularly feel nervous or anxious (18% versus 40%) or isolated (8% versus 37%). Anyone spending cognitive time hiding or worrying about disabilities is not bringing 100 % of themselves to work.

Make disability part of your leadership brand

When a company incorporates inclusion into its leadership brand, it is directly addressing the needs of their employees with both hidden and visible disabilities. They will be happier, less anxious, and less isolated. And creating a Disability ERG is an explicit support signal for this group and their allies. Having access to a empathetic community who knows how to navigate the reasonable accommodations process can guide employees toward resources and even if they are not ready to open up about their disability to others.

Start (or participate in) a Disability Employee Resource Group

Here are a few of the ways disability-related employee resource groups support employees with all disabilities. Disability ERGs:

  • Create a safe and empathetic space where people with disabilities and their allies can openly discuss issues facing them
  • Improve inclusive hiring efforts
  • Provide feedback to other corporate stakeholders on physical and digital accessibility issues
  • Reduce unconscious bias towards people with disabilities

Conclusion

Creating and participating in a disability ERG can create that atmosphere of trust that is necessary for first-class relationships to form between people with hidden disabilities and their co-workers. Participation by abled allies, especially executives and leaders, sends a message of inclusion to the rest of the company. When more people become comfortable to disclose their hidden disabilities, that creates a chain reaction that benefits the entire company

Blogger, disability advocate, nerd. Bringing the fire on ableism. A11y Architect @ VMware. Wheelchair user w/ a deaf daughter. CS, Law, and Business background

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store