Although July is coming to a close and Disability Pride Month is ending, the truth is this should not be seen as a conclusion, but rather an opening to rethink the disability narrative in its totality. Disability Pride is a celebration, but more importantly, it is a moment to remind people it is time to reconsider the relationship of persons with disabilities across the fabric of society. It is a month to reassert the power, beauty, and value of this community and recognize there is more to do, and the important role that persons with disabilities can play in creating a sustainable future.
The business ecosystem is certainly at the front lines of creating this future, however, as the world of work is continuing to evolve, organizations must be prepared for the coming challenges ahead. Employee Resource Groups (also known as ERGs, affinity groups, or business network groups) have become a valuable tool where factions of employees come together in their workplace based on shared characteristics or life experiences. ERGs provide support to enhance career development and contribute to personal growth within the work environment. Traditionally, ERGs have focused on personality traits or characteristics of underrepresented groups, from women, race, sexual orientation, disability, gender, etc. In recent years there has been a renewed interest in the purpose of ERGs emphasizing special interests such as workplace wellness, and community advocacy among other activities. It is this shift that organizations must begin to embrace by recognizing the value of an ERG as a central instrument for business growth in the 21st Century economy. ERGs are as much about building dialogue across the enterprise from the C-Suite to the rank-and-file employee.
For persons with disabilities, ERGs serve another purpose. It is an outlet to help shape organizational culture and build more effective communication within the business. Corporate leaders must see this as an opportunity to embrace the role of diversity, equity, and inclusion within their organization by being cognizant of what the key takeaways are through this time of radical change. It is the ERG that offers C-level executives and senior leaders to both see the magnificence of Disability Pride on full display while recognizing the value it plays as a tool for business growth. The ERG provides a conduit for persons with disabilities to dialogue about everything from internal needs, human capital issues, and workplace design, to external issues and the development of products and services. Leaders must elevate its prominence to illustrate its growing influence and the residual impact across the business ecosystem.
While the future vision of the Disability ERG is both a place of understanding and learning, the significance to business culture is the true benefit for the long term. As organizations continue to explore the ever-growing prominence of diversity, equity, and inclusion, the Disability ERG provides a laboratory to explore an additional ingredient, the role of Accessibility, which should be central to the nomenclature of business in the 21st century. Accessibility is no longer an issue of compliance, but critical to every facet of business design and intimately connected to diversity, equity, and inclusion. DEIA should be an acronym every business needs to know, and it can be the Disability ERG that becomes the catalyst.
Moving forward, businesses need to acknowledge that Disability Pride is a cultural touchstone that has tremendous value for a community but is imperative for business culture in helping to redefine the rule of business engagement and see the prospects for the innovation to come.