How Your Association Can Be an Ally for Professionals with Disabilities 



Employers’ DEI initiatives and accessibility policies for professionals with disabilities can be summed up in one word.  



For years, they’ve promised greater inclusion and accessibility for professionals with disabilities. But our extensive survey revealed that time and time again, they’ve fallen far short of what’s needed.  

The trove of alarming statistics we uncovered revealed that professionals with disabilities are facing widespread discrimination and bias in the workplace itself, while their DEI policies designed to help are failing dramatically to improve inclusion and accessibility.  

In short, employers have failed professionals with disabilities...  

But associations like yours can succeed.  

Below, we examine the data closely and explore some actionable steps your association can take to become an ally for professionals with disabilities.  



... Saying that a company is ‘inclusive’ or ‘diverse’ doesn't have much meaning to me.

- A survey respondent when asked: Where do you look to find out if a company is an inclusive employer? 



The Data Tells a Sobering Story

A close look at the data from our extensive survey of 202 professionals with disabilities reveals a sobering story. Employers, despite promised DEI initiatives and a greater focus on accessibility, are falling far short – and professionals with disabilities know this.  

Our survey revealed that outright discrimination and bias in the workplace was widespread. Per our survey respondents: 

  • 40% reported experiencing unconscious bias at work 
  • 37% said they had experienced microaggressions in the workplace 
  • 20% had experienced outright discrimination or bias in the workplace 
  • 17% reported experiencing positive discrimination while at work 

I've been fired by my previous employers and have felt it's because of my disability in some way.”

- A survey respondent when asked: Do you believe your career growth opportunities are negatively affected by your disability?  



Due to this bias and discrimination in the workplace, 38% said they felt like they couldn’t be their authentic selves while at work.  

In addition to facing outright discrimination and bias at work, professionals with disabilities also reported that their employers were failing to create a safe and inclusive environment where these incidents can be reported. A significant number of respondents – 40% – said they wouldn't feel safe reporting bias or discrimination at the workplace.  

Despite this concerning data, employers are failing to enact and enforce policies that promote equity, inclusion and accessibility.  

When asked how inclusive their employer is, survey respondents said:  

  • Only 51% say their employer enacts and enforces policies that provide fair treatment 
  • 36% say their employer provides diversity and accessibility training 
  • Just 30% say their employer provides necessary equipment 
  • 22% say their employer provides a support network 

If I reported (bias or discrimination), there is a very high chance I will lose my job.

-A survey respondent when asked: Would you feel safe reporting a case of discrimination?



The data is clear – employers are failing professionals with disabilities.  

But this doesn’t mean your association has to just stand around and watch. The fight for a more inclusive and fairer workplace is in your hands.  

Interested in Learning More?

Download our Free eBook

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How Can Your Association Make a Difference? 

Is your association going to be another bystander or take action and fight for inclusivity and justice?  

Below, we take a look at some actionable ways your association can be an ally for professionals with disabilities and create a more inclusive workplace! 

Take Mental Health Seriously 

Mental health is a complex issue that needs to be taken seriously.  

Your association can play a key role here in several ways. Establishing a mental health task force as well as sponsoring mental health workshops and events to help to raise awareness and empower your members with the critical information they need are some ideas to consider.  

Seek Support from External Organizations and Experts 

Many organizations that advocate on behalf of people with disabilities exist. Partner with them to improve your accessibility and inclusion policies and procedures as well as to gain more insight into issues effecting professionals with disabilities.  

Optimize Your Career Center 

In addition to making sure your career center is up to Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) standards, transform it into a centralized hub for professionals with disabilities, complete with articles, in-depth guides, helpful links and other resources. This way, professionals with disabilities can easily access the tools they need to advance their careers all in one place.  

Prioritize Technology and the Digital Space  

Make sure your offices and offsite meeting locations all have access to assistive technology. Also be sure to conduct a digital audit to ensure that your website, newsletters, social media accounts and other digital assets are fully accessible and inclusive. Upgrading to the latest virtual communications technology is also critical.  

With remote work and interviews being so prominent in this day and age, especially for many professionals with disabilities, your association simply can’t afford to fall behind.  

Think Comprehensively for Events and Meetings 

Finally, it's important to think comprehensively so that inclusion and accessibility are at the core of your association’s meetings, workshops and other events.  

That means not only holding events at locations that are fully accessible but having ASL interpreters and assistive technology on-hand. Doing this will help all your members feel welcomed, respected and included in your association’s events.  


Allow people to share their disability story without any fear of repercussions or judgement.” 

- A survey respondent when asked: What do you recommend your current employer could do to reduce discrimination and bias at work?  



Ready to Take Action?  

Clearly, employers are falling far short when it comes to being an ally for professionals with disabilities. Associations, fortunately, have the resources and clout to make a difference and create a truly inclusive and accessible professional environment where everyone feels welcome and safe.  

Are you ready to make that difference? 

Download our free eBook to learn how your association can become more inclusive and advocate for professionals with disabilities and be sure to sign up for our online workshop on Thursday, October 28 to get first-hand insights and advice from the experts!