What's Disability Pride Month and how does it push disability inclusion at work?

Disability Pride flag celebrates Disability Pride Month

People with disabilities represent some 16% of the global population. Image: The Valuable 500

Fernando Alonso Perez-Chao
Action Lead, Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Social Justice, World Economic Forum Geneva
Katy Talikowska
CEO, The Valuable 500
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Society and Equity

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  • The first Disability Pride Day was held in July 1990 and Disability Pride Month was born, which has been celebrated every July since.
  • Following its launch, Disability Pride Month events were created in cities around the world.
  • Disability Pride Month changes the negative narrative that society often perceives of disability.

The Americans with Disabilities Act was passed on July 26, 1990, to prohibit discrimination against people with disabilities. Following this legislation, Boston held the first Disability Pride Day event in July 1990 and Disability Pride Month was born and has been celebrated every July since.

Since its launch, events have been created in cities around the world, including Los Angeles, New York City, San Antonio, Madison, Wisconsin and Brighton, UK. This list continues to grow with more cities participating.

A key driver to the month’s awareness of Disability Pride is encapsulated by the Disability Pride flag. Ann Magill, a disabled woman, created the flag, which has a meaning behind it, with each colour symbolising a different part of the disability community.

The black field represents the disabled people who have lost their lives due to their illness and negligence, suicide and eugenics; red represents physical disabilities; yellow cognitive and intellectual disabilities; white invisible and undiagnosed disabilities; blue mental illness; and, green sensory perception disabilities.

The flag is an example of how the community collaborated to produce the final product, helping to support the well-known statement 'with us and not without us,' a comment owned by the disability community.

Like everyone, people with disabilities must have the opportunity to be included in the conversations around the boardroom table. They represent some 16% of the global population - a figure that continues growing with an ageing population. Companies that are disability-inclusive are better positioned to serve their customers, attract and retain talented employees, optimize decision-making and demonstrate responsible governance and effective risk management.

The Valuable 500

As one of the World Economic Forum’s Impact partners, the Valuable 500 is a global business partnership of 500 companies working together to end disability exclusion. The Valuable 500 now has a combined revenue of over $8 trillion, combined market cap of $23 trillion and employs 22 million people worldwide. High-profile members include Apple, Microsoft, HSBC, Google, Airbnb, EY, P&G, Sony and Mahindra Group.

Through research and working with its partners, the Valuable 500 has identified the three largest system barriers to disability inclusion within business. These are:

1. The lack of representation of people with disabilities in the C-suite

2. The lack of standardized reporting on disability data

3. The lack of representation in organizations’ communications and advertising

To address this, the Valuable 500 and the World Economic Forum intend to drive change through Synchronised Collective Action. This channels the power of 500 partners working in harmony, moving in the same direction at the same time against the same system barriers.

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What is the World Economic Forum doing to close the disability inclusion gap?

Lack of representation of people with disabilities in leadership

Research commissioned by Tortoise Media highlighted that no FTSE 100 executives or senior managers disclosed a disability in 2021. Most recent research by Tortoise Media in 2022 showed that 3 FTSE 100 companies now report having people with disabilities in the C-Suite.

To accelerate the representation of the disabled community in leadership, the Valuable 500 and the World Economic Forum launched Generation Valuable in Davos 2022, a programme designed to accelerate opportunities for people with disabilities to become the talented voices of tomorrow’s C-suite. The first cohort of 75 was announced on International Day for Persons with Disabilities in December 2022.

Lack of standardized reporting on disability data

At the World Economic Forum in Davos this year, the Valuable 500 launched a further Synchronised Collective Action via a white paper entitled ‘ESG and disability data: a call for inclusive reporting.’ Only 22% of the Valuable 500 companies publicly disclosed workforce representation of disability (self-ID) percentages in fiscal year 2020-21 Annual Reports and Accounts (ARAs) and ESG and Sustainability Reports.

This low level of disability disclosure and lack of standardized reporting criteria make comparisons between organizations incredibly challenging. The white paper recommends five global standardised disability inclusion KPIs – workforce representation, goals, training, employee resource groups (ERGs) and digital accessibility. Since its launch, it already has adopters of these KPIs, including partners Sky, Mahindra Group, London Stock Exchange Group, Microsoft and Allianz and this momentum is growing.

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Lack of representation in organizational communication

Finally, the Synchronised Collective Action for Inclusive Representation will be launched later this year. This follows research commissioned with the disability community and the Valuable 500 companies. Nearly one in five of the global population has a disability, yet the representation of people with disabilities in advertising and media is far lower. According to Dentsu Global, global advertising spending in 2022 was forecast at $738.5 billion. Still, in the US, Nielson found that disabled people are represented in less than 1% of primetime advertising, whether for disability-related themes, visuals or topics.

Research by UK Valuable 500 company, Lloyds Banking Group, found that only 39% of disabled respondents and caregivers felt accurately portrayed in advertising. Procter & Gamble (P&G) has partnered with the World Federation of Advertisers, media owners, TV sales houses and other key industry partners to promote progress towards 100% advertising accessibility across Europe by 2025. P&G has a proven track record of pushing for ads with audio descriptions and captioning to drive societal change and business impact.

Representation is a crucial factor. Without having people with disabilities working in companies, you will never really play a part in this change to end exclusion. A recent report from the Boston Consulting Group delved into this in detail. The report highlighted that most organizations say their workforce includes relatively few people with disabilities: just 4% to 7%.

Yet, Boston Consulting Group’s survey found that some 25% of people said they have a disability or health condition that limits a significant life activity. It found that employees with disabilities significantly under-disclose to their employers, so employers are missing out on helping employees bring their whole selves to work. Organizations can foster more significant feelings of inclusion for people with disabilities by providing employee-centric policies and programmes, mentorship and reasonable accommodations. Another way to increase feelings of inclusion is to make employees comfortable disclosing their disability.

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Momentum and opportunities

Momentum is building as we see organizations embracing and making themselves accountable and committed to change. Charlie Nunn, Lloyds Banking Group chief executive, said: “Announcement to double the representation of colleagues with disabilities in senior management roles demonstrates our commitment to become more inclusive and we will continue to challenge ourselves to be a more accessible, supportive and inclusive place to work.”

By making this part of its company values and culture, its aim is to be a leader in disability inclusion and create an inclusive and accessible working environment where everyone is supported to reach their full potential. So, to put this into context with tangible figures, Lloyds Banking Group set a public goal to double the representation of people with disabilities in senior grades from 6% to 12% by 2025.

This action and these statements create a positive cascade that ripples within an organization, allowing opportunity and confidence for those colleagues with a disability to see a chance for them to progress and, more importantly, feel less reluctant to self-disclose their disability.

The Valuable 500’s strategy is to prove the value of disability in business - we believe that by ending disability exclusion in business we can shape how this is represented and perceived in society. If we can get businesses to value people with disabilities as customers, suppliers, talent and community members, then we can change the inequality crisis. What business includes, society includes, what business values, society values.

Disability Pride Month changes the negative narrative that society often perceives of disability. It is an opportunity for the community to own the narrative and for those with disabilities to positively promote themselves as valued members of society and business.

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