By understanding the value of creating a diverse workforce, entrepreneurs and employers can benefit from varied perspectives and viewpoints on how to confront business challenges, thus achieving the best odds of success. Since disability is a natural part of diversity, businesses will benefit from taking steps to ensure that people with disabilities are included and represented in their workforce and management.
As access to higher education, accessible transportation, and assistive technology has expanded, the need for a diverse workforce has increased. Individuals with disabilities are now more than ever able to participate in many activities that they once could not, due to physical and attitudinal barriers.
The following is a guideline that outlines the overall benefits and protocols for including people from the Adaptive Community in your business or venture.
• Currently, the majority of businesses that provide products to and services for persons with disabilities are overseen and operated by non-disabled individuals, who are subject to implicit bias, and also may lack intimate knowledge of the lived experience of their customers. This situation results in a disconnect between the company and the people it serves. Bringing on people from the Adaptive Community into consulting and decision making roles will help to remedy this situation.
• Start-ups and existing business often call upon individuals from the Adaptive Community to conduct one-on-one interviews or focus groups in order to gain knowledge/conduct research for a specific product/service development. In many cases, persons with disabilities participate in these interviews/focus groups for free. By not compensating these individuals, businesses continue to perpetuate the problem of undervaluing what persons with disabilities have to offer. The solution is to both compensate people from the Adaptive Community similar to what is provided for those without disabilities, and to expect a high standard of output from them.
• When thinking about starting a venture to develop a new service/product to solve a problem for persons with disabilities, keep in mind that building a partnership or team that has people from the Adaptive Community who are fairly compensated for their time and effort will help strengthen and streamline the process. Thereby, increasing the chance for obtaining the desired outcome. Recognizing the value and talents that individuals with lived experience/expertise to bring to the venture should be a crucial component in the planning process. It will decrease the likelihood of making a costly mistake by going in the wrong direction.
• Having a diverse workforce will also enable your venture to show potential funders and the world that you are inclusive and are committed to hiring and compensating persons with disabilities. There are many federal funding agencies that now require entities to include individuals with disabilities into their grant proposals. There are also agencies that follow and promote companies that employ persons with disabilities. In this case, Inclusion directly increases your access to much needed capital.
In summary, the benefits of including people from the Adaptive Community far outweigh the cost of changing outdated systems and processes built upon subtle (or not so subtle) exclusion rather than active Inclusion.