Diversity has always been a hot topic among HR professionals. While race and gender have historically been front and center in discussions on diversity, disability and culture are picking up speed as businesses are increasingly focused on how diversity in their workforces supports their bottom line goals.

Through disability inclusion consultation and training, Tangram Business Resourcing empowers businesses to be intentional with inclusion strategies.  There are many companies such as Microsoft, PwC, EY and Walgreens that have proven data on the bottom line benefits of including disabilities in diversity. It’s well documented that hiring a diverse workforce, including those with disabilities, can have far reaching benefits for businesses.

But why stop there? Disability inclusion is a strategy that has implications beyond the bottom line and company culture. It is imperative that businesses embrace inclusive practices from a consumer-relations standpoint as well. Think accessibility and inclusivity for physical locations and online platforms, marketing, the user experience and product design—all of these things help companies stand out from their competitors, which is exactly what companies need to do in order to grab a piece of the $220 billion market segment that is represented by people with disabilities.

If you’re wondering why your business needs to tap into this market segment, here is some food for thought:

  • Disabilities represent the largest minority in the U.S., with 26 percent of adults in the U.S. living with a disability, according to the CDC.
  • People with disabilities comprise the third largest market segment in the U.S., according to the Office of Disability Employment Policy, a market segment that has potential for major growth when you take into account the network of family and friends attached to this population.
  • A survey by the Marketing Anthropology Project found that 66 percent of consumers will purchase goods and services from a business that features individuals with disabilities in their marketing, while 78 percent will purchase goods and services from a business that takes steps to ensure easy access for individuals with disabilities at their physical locations.
  • Millennials, more than any other generation, expect companies they work for and patronize to espouse social responsibility practices. Additionally, millennials and Gen X are poised to inherit roughly $30 trillion in assets from the Boomer generation over the next few decades, which will be the largest wealth transfer in history. Now, that’s a market!

As we head into March, which is Disability Awareness Month in Indiana, we hope to inspire an inclusion revolution in the Hoosier state. We know firsthand, having supported people with disabilities for more than 30 years, that there continue to be barriers to full inclusion. In our own backyard, we grapple with transportation challenges, low employment of people with disabilities (Indiana ranks 24th out of the 50 states for employment of people with disabilities, according to RespectAbility), inaccessible businesses and public spaces, etc. But there are also developments worth celebrating.

Visit Indy just launched an accessibility guide (Tangram was a collaborator), professional sports teams across the state are starting to host Sensory Nights to accommodate fans with autism and their families with help from our friends at Autism Society of Indiana, Rhodius Park recently added a sensory room, Caroline’s Carts, which are specially designed for children with special needs, are cropping up in stores like Target, Meijer and Kroger in Indiana, theatres like AMC have sensory friendly movie showings, and the list goes on!

It is our hope that Indiana continues to develop its reputation as a leader in inclusion. For a city already known as a Midwest destination, particularly for sporting events and conventions, and a state known for its hospitality, imagine what upping the inclusion ante could do! Indiana could become a destination of choice for individuals with disabilities and their families (and others!), we could attract forward-thinking, innovative companies interested in social responsibility, we could grow and strengthen our economy, we could be a model for other states—the possibilities are endless!

Join us in propelling Indiana to the top of the list when it comes to inclusion. Don’t do it because it is Disability Awareness Month, or because you can check the "diversity box," or even because it is the right thing to do. Do it because your company, our city, our state, our community depends on it. Do it because it is a business strategy that you can’t afford NOT to use. Do it because your consumers expect you to do it.

Kathy Bernhardt is managing director of Tangram Business Resourcing.

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