The Business Blind Spot that Keeps Being Overlooked.

Amazon announced a new Catalytic Capital initiative, which will invest in venture capital funds that support entrepreneurs who are “underrepresented,” specifically Black, Latino, and Indigenous founders.

While we cannot ignore the importance of supporting business leaders from these groups, we should also question why people with disabilities weren’t considered worthy of the same investment.

The US has made substantial progress over the past two years with the support of the Biden administration toward a more inclusive future. However, there are still significant differences between those with and without disabilities in the labor market. People with disabilities were 45% less likely than others to work and earned an average of $12,000 less annually in 2021.

Despite the growing emphasis on diversity and inclusion (D&I), disability is still a systemic blind spot that prevents real change.

The New York Times published shocking revelations that doctors admitted that patients with disabilities were less desirable than others. Discriminatory discourse portrayed disability as an inconvenience. This study was only a symptom of a more significant issue in society and business: the recognition that the disability community does not have any value.

Major businesses claim to do better and lead with purpose-driven values, but they often exclude disability from their strategies and initiatives. Amazon is an example of this. The Return on Disability Group’s report shows that while 90% of companies value diversity, only 4% consider disability in their workplace policies.

Even in 2022, many companies still choose one type of inclusion over the other. D&I is viewed as an “a la carte” approach to D&I, where protecting the vulnerable in society becomes a choice or competition among different groups rather than a fixed menu of how each should be treated. We have to do better.

Innovation is the key to business growth. The disabled community provides fresh talent and diverse thought that can help drive productivity. Not only are there skills and time disabled people have to offer businesses, but also their critical attributes of resilience and tenacity, which they have acquired through life experience. Accenture’s 2020 study revealed that businesses that focus on the inclusion of disabled people could grow their sales by 2.9 times and their profits by 4.1 times.

Businesses that fail to see the potential in cognitive divergence are at greater risk because they lack inclusion for all. They are losing their competitive edge in today’s turbulent global economy and threatening their long-term success.

Employers are losing out on talent, innovation, and a more extensive client base by excluding over 50 million Americans with disabilities. The $13 trillion global market for disabled consumers is still largely untapped. Businesses must offer accessible products and services to tap this market. This is difficult without disabled employees. Inclusive design is possible only if disabled voices are involved. These people can recognize the needs of all forms of disability and adapt their products accordingly.

It is not a fiscal error to fail to include the disabled in the product and process. Future growth is expected, and responsible and sustainable investment will increase. Disability inclusion is crucial: it cuts across almost every social issue in ESG. It is still a neglected frontier. Investors are attracted to disability inclusion because it increases diversity metrics and returns to shareholders. It is also a powerful tool to create lasting value within companies and, most importantly, society.

There is overwhelming evidence to support inclusion as strategic. It drives better performance, more significant market share, and higher profits. It is absurd for society and businesses to continue to ignore disability.

We should not be advocating for the inclusion of disabled people in 2022, but we should be leading the charge toward universal corporate culture and accessible design. This is a matter of future and risk management for all.

What will it take for us all to look in the mirror and realize that today’s exclusion of disability is tomorrow’s exclusion?

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