Businesses Need to Reignite DEI Conversation That Includes Disability Now, During NDEAM — to Ensure Future Success

Whitby, ON, October 3, 2022 — Disability inclusion is reshaping the nature of work and business success more than ever — but with progress on conversation and action stalled for two years by the global COVID-19 pandemic, it’s vital for businesses to now refocus on their diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) conversation, goals and actions this National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) — and make disability part of that dialogue.  

“Progress on disability-inclusion conversation and actions by business has stalled in 2022 because for two years they weren’t a business priority in the midst of a public health crisis. Companies have been focused on adapting how and where employees work, and how they carry on business, while keeping employees safe. I understand that,” says Jeannette Campbell, CEO of the Ontario Disability Employment Network (ODEN). 

“But now awareness, conversation and action need to be reignited. Disability needs to be part of that DEI action and business conversation. Too often, it’s left out. If businesses don’t fully embrace the change that’s happening, in the long run, that’s not going to be good for business.” 

A pre-pandemic 2019 TD Economics study titled Canadians with Disabilities: Seizing the Opportunity, bluntly stated, businesses that don’t expand their talent searches and hire people who have a disability, are going to be less competitive in the years ahead.  

“Businesses that don’t fully embrace disability inclusion and the change it’s driving; that don’t make disability-inclusive hiring part of their strategic plan for growth and success, will miss market opportunities and alienate a growing consumer market. They’ll also be perpetuating their labour shortage by not accessing the disability talent pool. Overall, they won’t be well positioned for continued success,” Campbell emphasizes. 

The global disability consumer market is over five billion people, with a total disposable income of about US$13 trillion. And in our country alone, consumer spending by Canadians who have a disability is expected to increase to 21% from 14% by 2030. 

Practically, commitment to disability inclusion is a solution to labour needs. It can help businesses successfully navigate through the growing labour shortage that’s happening across sectors for the foreseeable future. The disability talent market, however, is still largely untapped. There are over 600,000 Canadians who have a disability, who can and want to work, but they’re unemployed or underemployed.  

“Conversely, businesses that do embrace disability inclusion at all levels of the organization, across all workplace functions, will be more successful and competitive. There’s plenty of research to show this,” Campbell notes. 

A 2020 Accenture study found that businesses focused on disability inclusion grow their sales 2.9 times faster, and their profits 4.1 times faster, than other companies. 

Another two-year study found that inclusive, high-performing companies are as much as eight times stronger at innovation, customer service and employee retention. 

“Creating a culture in which disability inclusion is a driving force for growth and success isn’t just about the bottom line. Other things are important, too,” notes Campbell. “It makes a business an employer of choice, now and in the future. Disability inclusion is driving both the future of work, and customer and employee experience.” 

Today, job seekers are more discerning about the offers they accept and the kinds of businesses they want to work for — organizations where there’s an alignment with their personal values. A 2020 survey found that 70% of job seekers want to work for a company that demonstrates commitment to DEI — making them an employer of choice.  

Reflecting all of this, ODEN’s 2021 NDEAM campaign theme is, Driving the Future of Work with Disability Inclusion. 

During NDEAM, ODEN will publish a two-part article series to help businesses understand what’s happening and why; and how and why they need to embrace the change being driven by disability, by making part of their DEI business conversation. Part one will be published October 6. The second instalment is October 20.  

On October 25, ODEN will release a new episode of its podcast,You Can’t Spell Inclusion Without a D. The featured guests are Caroline Casey, the founder of The Valuable 500, and Paul Polman, Chair of the initiative. The Valuable 500 is the world’s largest CEO collective and business movement for disability inclusion. In the engaging conversation with Casey and Polman, they provide sharp, blunt insight on the current global state of disability inclusion in business, and what still needs to happen.  

Also during NDEAM, one major national event will shine a light on Driving the Future of Work with Disability Inclusion, literally. The third annual Light It Up! For NDEAMTM takes place Thursday, October 20. Businesses, structures, municipal signs and world-renowned landmarks across Canada will be specially lit purple and blue for one night.  

Light It Up! For NDEAM is much more than a one-night, co-ordinated lighting event to raise awareness,” explains Campbell. “It’s fast-becoming a movement that ignites conversation about both the economic and social importance of disability inclusion.” 

She adds, “When disability inclusion has the power to drive the future of work, the future success of businesses across every sector, it makes perfect sense to start the journey now and focus on disability inclusion every day. Not just in October during National Disability Employment Awareness Month, when we recognize the contributions that people who have a disability make to businesses and their communities.” 


For more information, and to arrange interviews, contact:  
Dave Bennett, Xposure PR 905-339-6668
Dean Askin, Communications Strategist, ODEN  416-818-1514 (cell) 

ABOUT ODEN: The Ontario Disability Employment Network (ODEN), created in 2008, is a professional body of more than 130 employment service providers united to increase employment opportunities for people who have a disability. Members are from every corner of the province and support people of all disability types. Beyond Ontario, ODEN ( has connections with organizations in other provinces and territories of Canada. Light It Up! For NDEAMTM is a trademark of the Ontario Disability Employment Network.