How and Why Disability Inclusion is Driving the Future of Work 

Updated January 17, 2024

Filed under Disability Awareness & Confidence, Inclusive Hiring

Reading time: 6 min | Posted by Dean Askin and Jeannette Campbell | Part one in a two-part series

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To borrow from the famous Bob Dylan song, “The times they are changing.” In 2022, that change is, disability inclusion is driving the future of work more than ever before. 

Like “disability,” “work” is a broad term. Both of these things are diverse. Which makes how and why disability inclusion is driving the future of work a diverse, broad topic.  

There is, for example, the angle of how disability inclusion can make a business an employer of choice now and in the future. One can dedicate an entire post to this aspect alone. The same goes for technology and how businesses need to make sure the technology they’re using is accessible, so all employees can succeed in their work.  

When it comes to the future of work, what we’re talking about here — more specifically — is how and why disability is changing the nature of the workforce; and hence the nature of work. And why you need to embrace this change.  

Positive changes happening in business  

Things are happening like never before in the business world. According to the findings of The Valuable Truth Report 2022 by The Valuable 500, 70% of businesses surveyed are “actively investing in services and supports” for employees who have a disability. 

The report noted that although the COVID-19 pandemic “slowed, halted or stalled major gains in employment and culture improvements,” it hasn’t “dampened intention, commitment or enthusiasm” about disability inclusion efforts and actions by businesses surveyed globally. 

An inclusive culture has to be driven by top management, and that’s happening more. The 2022 Disability Equality Index (DEI) report found, 30% of survey respondent companies have a senior executive who has a disclosed disability. That was up 20% over 2021. 

Other DEI findings: 

Other major reasons why disability inclusion is a driver 

But there are also other noteworthy reasons why it’s going to be even more of a driving force in the years ahead. They include these five major factors: 

Get the big picture on disability inclusion 

If you’re approaching disability inclusion only from the duty to accommodate lens, you’re not getting the big picture of how and why disability inclusion is reshaping work and driving the future of your business.

Here’s a significant element in that bigger picture: In one U.S. employer survey by the Job Accommodation Network, 90% of businesses polled said providing an accommodation helped them retain a valued employee., 

It’s part of a culture shift — don’t look at accommodations as an exception to standard practices, policies and procedures in your organization. In the wake of the pandemic, modification is perhaps a better term than accommodation. Because over the past two years, companies learned how to modify workplaces and ways of working for all employees. 

This is what an April 2021 report about employment opportunities in the Alberta tech sector for people in that province who have a disability found: When you “tackle accommodations from the perspective of long-term organizational change and culture shift,” you’ll be “more likely to create an environment where all employees” feel welcome, safe and supported.  

Embrace it — strategically for success 

In North America it wasn’t so long ago that there was a lot of resistance to disability inclusion in business and employment — largely because of attitudes towards and perceptions of disability. It was never given a thought in strategic business planning.  

And this is still the case in many countries around the world.  

In the U.S. and Canada, there’s been a lot of progress. Today, more than ever, savvy business leaders understand — or are beginning to understand — that when their business goals and disability inclusion are closely aligned, that inclusion can drive the nature of work and future business success.  

As the February 2022 Public Policy Forum report, Employers’ Lessons Learned in Hiring, Retaining and Advancing Employees with Disabilities noted, embracing disability inclusion to stay competitive “requires conscientious choices” by businesses.  

Gain a better understanding of how and why disability inclusion is driving the nature of work now and in the future. Make deliberate decisions. Take proactive action to fully embrace disability inclusion. By doing all these things, you’ll be well positioned to steer a successful course as disability inclusion drives the future of work, and your business.  

In part two of this series, we’ll look at making sure disability is part of the DEI conversation in your business.


About the authors

Dean Askin

Dean Askin is the Communications Strategist for the Ontario Disability Employment Network.

Jeannette Campbell


Jeannette Campbell is CEO of the Ontario Disability Employment Network.