Data from Skillsoft’s new Intellectual Disabilities in Workplace DEI survey suggest that workplace DEI efforts may often fail to include people with intellectual disabilities.
Skillsoft launched the survey as part of its emerging partnership with Special Olympics, the global inclusion movement dedicated to empowering people with intellectual disabilities through sport.
More than 100 HR and professionals in the learning space took part in the research which highlighted what HR leaders across industries think about the inclusion of people with disabilities in the workplace.
The study identified three overarching themes: low awareness surrounding intellectual disabilities in the workplace, support for intellectual disability inclusion, and a demand for company policies to be backed up by action.
Lack of understanding
Survey results indicate that respondents don’t understand how to make their workplace more accessible to people with intellectual disabilities. Though the vast majority (88%) of respondents work for companies with a diversity and inclusion policy, 55% were not confident their organisation had any guidance related to intellectual disabilities.
“Many organisations lack the appropriate level of understanding and action on how to create a culture of ‘true inclusion,’” said Mark Onisk, chief content officer, Skillsoft.
“Even though 87% of people who took this survey confirmed interest in being more inclusive, they are missing the essential step of ‘how.’ That’s where learning and development come in.”
Support for inclusion
Although employees indicated that they are willing and ready to learn more about the inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities, their efforts could fall behind without proper training.
While 81% of respondents suggest their colleagues would be supportive in the inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities, there is still hesitation. The survey found 33% of respondents’ biggest concern is how people without an intellectual disability would engage with those who do have an intellectual disability
Results also indicate there is a demand for change as 93% of respondents believe that becoming an inclusive organisation would help the company culture. In fact, 76% of respondents report their management or leadership would be at least somewhat supportive of becoming more inclusive of people with intellectual disabilities.
“It’s clear that many leaders are primed for substantial change,” said Denis Doolan, chief of organisational excellence at the Special Olympics.
“With transparent conversation and investing in a culture of learning that brings about open-minded thinking and positive action, this essential conversation is ready to come to the forefront.”
Action requires a prescriptive path
The key to meaningful change is a focus on developing a policy that is backed by action. Even in organisations with thoroughly designed DEI policies, inclusive behaviours must go beyond policies and statements. Having a policy in place does not mean the work is done and one survey respondent said that “policy is good, but needs more action to support it, and more focus at the leadership level.”
The study shows that if organisations want to be meaningfully inclusive, they must provide training and information on intellectual disabilities to their employees.