What Is a Culture of Inclusion? (and How to Find Companies With It)
The above picture is of an inclusive group of 8 people smiling.
If you're using our site, the odds are good you've struggled with being excluded periodically throughout your life. Whether it's willful or not, many people treat those with disabilities differently, almost alien.
When it comes to work, finding an employer with a culture of inclusion can go a long way to helping you feel not just supported but human. You deserve a workplace where you are treated as an equal; so, how do you find one?
What Is a Culture of Inclusion?
Many people confuse company diversity with a company having a culture of inclusion. In part, this is understandable. A company with diverse hires tends to lack the biases that result in serious issues regarding exclusion.
That said, many people who have disabilities know what it's like to be treated nicely but still as another. This is a common issue among individuals unfamiliar with what it's actually like to live with the limitations you might have.
A company with a true culture of inclusion does its best to break down as many barriers to entry as it can among its employees. This goes beyond making sure you can do your job.
When group activities are planned, an inclusive company makes sure as many of its staff can participate as possible. At meetings, diverse viewpoints are welcomed and appreciated. In short, they make a genuine effort to include rather than allow.
This isn't always easy to find. Many people with disabilities often feel like outsiders, even when with people they see on a daily basis. It can feel isolating, even if you are treated with basic courtesy.
Good and Bad Signs
There are a few things one can check for to help determine if a given company is as diverse and inclusive as they claim. This can be applied beyond disability too; those of different races, genders, and cultural backgrounds can all benefit from looking for these signals.
First, look at a company's owners and management. How diverse are they? A diverse staff can be nice but it's the owners and managers who decide policy.
If upper management is made up of a diverse cast, that's a good sign. Even better is if you can find a company with disabled individuals, especially those with the same or similar conditions to yourself.
Second, simply look at how they've treated and are treating people who are differently abled. Does their facility seem well-designed for those with mobility issues? Have they had controversies related to discrimination in the past?
It can also help to simply observe how the people in the company treat you. If you get comments that make you feel lesser in any way, that's a bad sign.
It is more than understandable for someone to take a job they don't love so they can pay the bills. Having a disability can be expensive and things like insurance or government payments can't always cover those costs.
That said, if you notice some of the common disability barriers people like yourself struggle with, it's probably time to make a change. You deserve to work somewhere inclusive.
There is a big gap between a company having big enough problems you can report them to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and treating you the way you deserve to be treated. Being tolerated isn't good enough.
There are companies pushing past our nation's cultural resistance to important change, striving to become more diverse and inclusive. You should feel like a supported member of the team with an equal voice to those around you.
You can keep a job while looking for another. Don't settle with one job while better opportunities are out there. A company that is inclusive can do wonders for your mental health and your productivity.
Finding Inclusive Companies
Finding inclusive companies is not always easy, especially if you live somewhat isolated or have a disability that sharply limits your options.
The first step is research. While many companies claim to be diverse and inclusive, you can often tell who is serious about it via reviews and testimonials. If people with disabilities like yours have good things to say, that tends to be a good sign.
Finding work you can do remotely can be a great way to expand your options, since then your geography becomes less of an issue. It's also great if you have trouble with mobility but admittedly remote work can also feel more isolating than more traditional work.
We've worked to make finding inclusive companies easier ourselves. At disABLEDperson, Inc., we have striven to help individuals with disabilities find better jobs, whether they're unhappy in their present job or currently unemployed.
One of the ways we've done this is by partnering with a number of companies we believe are striving to become more diverse and inclusive. We collected these job postings all in one place, for free and easy use!
Quick Advice for Companies
An entire article could be written on how companies can foster a culture of inclusion, but we'll end with some advice for those who are trying to do so.
First, any company wanting to be more inclusive should be trying to become more diverse. This goes beyond hiring people with disabilities; you want a variety of viewpoints and life experiences on your team.
Second, the people you hire should feel like their comfort and inclusion is an assumed necessity on your part. This goes beyond being ADA-compliant. Plan company outings and fun events with everyone in mind.
Third, never assume a lack of complaint means an employee feels happy or included. Most employees don't want to lose their jobs or cause trouble; this makes them reluctant to complain even if they're uncomfortable or feel isolated.
At the core of an inclusive culture is empathy. You want your employees to feel appreciated for who they are. You don't have to pretend they don't have limitations others don't; instead, work around those limitations without it feeling like a chore or imposition. Instead, it's the right thing to do.
All People Deserve to Feel Human
At the end of the day, a culture of inclusion is about making everyone feel like a human being. Disability should not be a barrier that prevents you from feeling included in a group and it's not your fault if that's how an employer makes you feel.
For tips on how to find disability-friendly work and more, take a look at some of our helpful blog posts, like this one on creating a job application. On our blog, you'll find a ton of actionable advice for job hunting, interviewing, and more.