The mainstreaming of remote work and a renewed emphasis on DEI programs in 2020 has put disability inclusion in the limelight over the past few years, and the workforce participation rate for people with disabilities has hit record highs. And as those numbers have gone up, more companies have started mentioning disability in their voluntary non-financial reports.
Around 65.6% of Fortune 500 companies (and 81% of Fortune 100 companies) include disability inclusion in their impact reporting, according to a new report from Disability:IN, an organization dedicated to disability inclusion in business. However, few employers are disclosing hard metrics—many of these mentions only include qualitative information, such as a detailed description of a disability employee resource group (ERG), an accessibility program, or product.
But just 10% of Fortune 500 companies publicly share self-identification data, while 21% of Fortune 100 companies do the same. Of the Fortune 500, the median self-identification rate of employees with disabilities was 6%. For comparison, around 27% of the U.S. adult population lives with a disability, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
While companies mentioning their disability inclusion programs is a step in the right direction, information about the makeup of their workforces still falls short when companies are opaque about the actual number of people with disabilities among their ranks.
“When we saw the report, there's this really encouraging piece that pulls on your heartstrings and says, ‘Oh, my God, 65% of the Fortune 500 are already doing this,’ which in one way we're really excited about that, we want to champion that,” says Reid Jewett Smith, director of research and policy at Disability:IN. “But you dig one layer below that, and we find the percentage of the reporting that's just really superficial, all of a sudden, shaves that number way down.”
The number of global companies reporting on the self-identification of people with disabilities within their workforce, however, will likely grow in the near future. Investors and regulatory bodies in the U.S. have continued to push for increased workforce disclosures, including disability metrics, and some companies that also operate in the European Union will be mandated to report these metrics as part of the E.U.’s new directive on corporate sustainability reporting.
Additionally, mounting expectations from employees and job candidates that companies openly and candidly discuss disability inclusion within the organization are pressuring companies to improve their disclosure practices. Employees, prospective workers, and even caregivers of people with disabilities often look to these public disclosures to suss out the company’s values and priorities around disability inclusion. They’re looking to these reports and asking:
“Where can I work that I know they're going to be signaling that disability is something that they are eager to integrate into the way that they think about building a smart workforce?” says Jewett Smith.
This story was originally featured on Fortune.com