Investing in Inclusion

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The handbook shows how businesses can become more disability-inclusive and improve their bottom line.

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A major report from the Global Business Coalition for Education offers an evidence-led how-to guide for businesses on improving their education, training, and employment for young people with disabilities.

The landmark report contains advice to business leaders seeking to improve their performance on disability inclusion, and it makes clear why disability inclusion plays a vital role in modern business, not an optional extra.

Every child deserves a quality education.

The importance of diversity in schools as well as diversity in the workplace is evident. Yet, inclusive education and equity in the workplace are frequently misunderstood and undervalued. Investing in inclusive education enables all students to contribute their unique and valuable skill sets to improve their societies and grow their economics.

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Around the world there are one billion people living with disabilities—three times as many people as live in the United States. They form the world’s largest minority group yet are still confronted by serious barriers that prevent their full and equal participation in education, employment, and society.

They face challenges such as school buildings they can’t enter, educational materials they can’t use, and teachers who lack the training to teach them. In some cultures, they are kept ‘hidden’ at home.

People with disabilities are a major untapped talent pool – across the world, they have lower employment rates than the general population.

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And despite accounting for about 15 percent of the global population and possessing an estimated disposable income of nearly $8 trillion, they are undervalued as a consumer market.

Investing in Inclusion – a handbook for businesses on disability-inclusive education, training, and employment demonstrates how businesses can make a transformative contribution to the lives of people with disabilities.

The report features candid interviews with persons with disabilities about their experience in education, the workplace, and society generally.

A young Nigerian woman with cerebral palsy describes her difficulty accessing services that many able-bodied people take for granted. For example, when she goes to the bank she cannot use the stairs, so must either be carried inside or call for an employee to come outside to attend to her needs.

An investigations lawyer with the global law firm Reed Smith describes the difficulties he faced in the job market due to his disability, while others describe the importance of a strong network of family and friends in helping them negotiate education and employment.

“Today, half of young people with disabilities are left out of school yet we know when they are included in education and provided pathways to inclusive employment, the impact on the business community is tremendous. This handbook helps companies understand how to be better partners and support inclusive employment opportunities.” Justin van Fleet, Executive Director of the Global Business Coalition for Education

Vibhu Sharma, a young visually impaired member of the Task Force developing the recommendations, said: “Young people with disabilities face challenges in employment because employers are unaware of their capabilities, or feel that people with disabilities would be a liability for them than an asset. The employer mindset needs to be changed. The report shows that organizations and companies that have adopted to a different mindset have actually yielded higher financial returns, have a greater teamwork and have even expanded their consumer base.”

The research also features various businesses that are leading the way on disability inclusion, from global corporations to a Kenyan start-up to a mobile phone operator in Jordan.

“The report shows that businesses have the potential, the power and the incentives to make a transformative contribution to people living with disabilities’ lives. Reed Smith is a global leader in disability, equity and inclusion and we are looking forward to continue working with our clients, staff, partners and other organisations to do even better.” David Boutcher MBE, partner at the global law firm Reed Smith

The report provides detailed guidance in four areas:

  1. How to include and engage persons with disabilities as students, employees, consumers, and partners.
  2. What to consider when creating an inclusive hiring and employment policy and corporate culture.
  3. What makes for effective disability-inclusive education and training.
  4. How the private sector can build successful partnerships with organizations for people with disabilities.