The most successful disability inclusion programs come from companies where leadership has championed the effort. C-suite buy-in can often get the process moving more quickly, and signals the importance of the project to the hiring manager and other staff who are tasked with implementing the program. And without approval from the C-suite, many of these programs are destined to fail.

Here’s how to help get your senior management to lead the way toward a more inclusive workforce.

Clear away misconceptions

Many managers—and many people in general—have believed that people with disabilities can’t or don’t want to work. But that’s definitely not the case. In fact, program after program has shown that workers with disabilities perform just as well as the general workforce—and exceed their peers in employee retention. It’s not about lowering expectations and standards for the person with the disability, it’s about finding the right person for the right job.

 

Share success stories

Success stories can be helpful in beginning the conversations—so sharing case studies, news articles and videos of successful programs is a great way to start. There’s plenty of evidence out there for successful programs (including the case studies on this site) that can help you make the case.

 

Understand your goals

Make your own business case on why hiring people with disabilities will be good for business. There are dozens of reasons why you might want to start to build a more inclusive workplace and dozens of goals you might want to meet. Setting concrete goals that can be measured—especially ones that dovetail with management’s business objectives—can go a long way toward getting C-suite buy-in.

 

Share the positive impacts for the entire workforce

While programs focus on the impact on the company and the person with the disability, there’s also strong evidence that employing people with disabilities benefits the rest of the workforce as well. Many companies have reported that their employee engagement has increased because they’re proud that their company is hiring people with disabilities—and anecdotally, many managers say their employees complain less, because they see the person next to them showing up with a smile on their face.

 

Be patient—and persistent

It will likely take longer than you’d like to get a program started, whether you find it hard to find an executive-level champion for the cause, or simply find that other factors—like personnel changes or technological shifts—postpone the program. But take heart: Usually, no doesn’t actually mean “no,” it just means “not right now.” The key is to keep checking in with the C-suite team, and providing research and ideas on a regular basis to keep it top of mind—and hopefully, near the top of the agenda.

 

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