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Disability:IN and the Disability Equality Index

DisabilityIN logo with the word Disability and the word in inside of a green circle.

It’s been said that disability is the "missing D" in diversity and inclusion discussions and initiatives. In December 2020, research conducted by The Valuable 500 showed that "only three percent of articles discussing diversity published in 2019 and 2020 referenced disability." While there is increased awareness around disability inclusion, "it is still not as firmly embedded in the diversity & inclusion agenda as it should be and is often a forgotten aspect of this conversation – particularly when it comes to business leadership." ~ The Valuable 500, December 3, 2020

Disability:IN, formerly the US Business Leadership Network (USBLN), is a leading nonprofit resource that is working to change that conversation and build a "stronger bridge between business and the disability communities."

One way Disability:IN does that is with the Disability Equality Index. “The Disability Equality Index (DEI) is a comprehensive benchmarking tool that helps companies build a roadmap of measurable, tangible actions that they can take to achieve disability inclusion and equality.” First introduced in 2012, the DEI is a joint initiative between Disability:IN and the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD).  In 2014, a pilot index was conducted with 48 participating companies. The annual DEI has continued and now has over 319 participating companies.

How Does the DEI Work?

The DEI measures criteria within 6 categories:

  • Culture & Leadership (30 points) – Businesses commit to and demonstrate a sustained, visible cultural commitment to disability inclusion and demonstrate visible leadership commitment to disability inclusion throughout the organization.
  • Enterprise-Wide Access (10 points) – Businesses commit to and demonstrate commitment to workplace accessibility.
  • Employment Practices (40 points) – Businesses commit to and demonstrate commitment to benefits, recruitment practices, employment practices, and accommodation practices that fully incorporate and include individuals with disabilities.
  • Community Engagement (10 points) – Businesses demonstrate public-facing engagement practices that celebrate and support individuals with disabilities.
  • Supplier Diversity (10 points) – Businesses commit to and demonstrate supplier diversity practices that fully include and utilize disability owned, veteran–disability owned businesses and service-disabled veteran owned businesses.
  • Non-U.S. Operations (Not Weighted) – Businesses commit to and demonstrate non-U.S. practices that fully incorporate and include individuals with disabilities.

Each company is scored on a scale of zero (0) to 100. They then receive a scorecard that highlights areas where the company is doing well, and areas for improvement. "Seventy-five percent of companies take the DEI more than once for long-term benchmarking to ensure sustainable results." Companies earning a score of 80 and above are recognized as "Best Places to Work for Disability Inclusion." For those companies “the DEI score builds brand recognition among potential and current employees, investors, and customers – including those with disabilities and their friends and families.”

There is a $600 administrative / processing fee to participate in the DEI. This gives companies access to the benchmark, a basic score card, and a copy of the DEI Report (PDF) that contains aggregate scores and best practice information.

So how does a company go about building a roadmap for disability inclusion? Disability:IN provides the steps and information to start on your way. You may also want to read the Eligibility and Timeline information for the 2022 DEI Benchmark as well as the DEI benchmarking questions. (PDF)


Maggie Vaughan, CPACC
Content Marketing Practitioner