The DEI Goes Global

The DEI Goes Global

The two-year Global Disability Equality Index (Global DEI) pilot was launched in 2021 in response to the demand for an international disability benchmarking tool. The U.S. DEI has been vital in advancing economic opportunities for individuals with disabilities, and insights gained from the DEI have equipped companies with the knowledge to shape more inclusive policies, programs, and initiatives that have the potential for global scalability. Phase I and Phase II of the Global DEI pilot engaged a total of 98 companies that collectively submitted responses for operations in 66 countries. The pilot was not scored, and no top scorers were named. The primary purpose was to test the feasibility of the questions outside the U.S., and to gather knowledge about legal frameworks for disability employment around the world.

Following the two-year pilot cycle that was available for select companies only, the Global DEI will officially launch as a scored benchmark available to a broader range of companies in 2024 with registration to open in Fall 2023. The Global DEI will be integrated into the same platform as the U.S. benchmark, and will first launch in the following countries: Brazil, Canada, Germany, India, Japan, the Philippines, and the United Kingdom. The initial group of seven countries were selected to ensure adequate global representation across geographic regions and reflect the demand for disability inclusion benchmarking in many of the countries most frequently submitted for the Global DEI pilot.

In analyzing feedback from nearly 100 participating companies, a clear rationale for a benchmarking tool that could be adapted for differing cultural contexts emerged. The Global DEI is poised to play a pivotal role in driving positive change, empowering private companies to promote disability inclusion in the countries where they operate regardless of if those countries have existing legal frameworks around disability employment. The Global DEI will allow organizations to track their progress over time, set priorities, and compare their performance to others, facilitating continuous improvement in disability inclusion efforts.

Global DEI Pilot Submissions by Country

  • Argentina (7)
  • Australia (11)
  • Austria (4)
  • Bangladesh (3)
  • Belgium (10)
  • Bolivia (2)
  • Brazil (20)
  • Canada (16)
  • Chile (5)
  • China (28)
  • Colombia (7)
  • Costa Rica (4)
  • Czech Republic (4)
  • Denmark (3)
  • Dominican Republic (2)
  • Egypt (2)
  • El Salvador (3)
  • Estonia (1)
  • Ethiopia (1)
  • Finland (4)
  • France (17)
  • Germany (17)
  • Hungary (2)
  • India (28)
  • Ireland (9)
  • Israel (3)
  • Italy (9)
  • Japan (5)
  • Kenya (1)
  • Latvia (1)
  • Lithuania (1)
  • Luxembourg (1)
  • Malaysia (6)
  • Mexico (13)
  • Morocco (2)
  • Mozambique (1)
  • Netherlands (10)
  • New Zealand (5)
  • Nigeria (2)
  • Norway (5)
  • Pakistan (4)
  • Panama (3)
  • Paraguay (2)
  • Peru (3)
  • Philippines (13)
  • Poland (7)
  • Portugal (6)
  • Romania (2)
  • Saudi Arabia (4)
  • Singapore (5)
  • Slovakia (2)
  • South Africa (5)
  • South Korea (5)
  • Spain (7)
  • Sri Lanka (2)
  • Sweden (5)
  • Switzerland (10)
  • Taiwan (2)
  • Tanzania (1)
  • Thailand (4)
  • Uganda (2)
  • Ukraine (3)
  • United Arab Emirates (7)
  • United Kingdom (39)
  • Uruguay (2)
  • Zambia (2)

The high-level insights that follow encapsulate the progress and challenges faced by companies seeking to advance disability inclusion in the countries where they operate. These findings provide valuable insights into the efforts being made to remove barriers and promote accessibility for employees with disabilities and are based on categorical interpretation rather than rates of adoption.

Culture and Leadership

While companies made strides during the Global DEI pilot, data consistently showed that satellite locations would benefit greatly from committed advocates and allies championing the advancement of inclusive employment. Wherever Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) were active and senior leaders prioritized inclusion, satellite locations benefited from well-communicated disability policies, accommodations, and employee benefits. These locations were much more likely to have disability-focused recruitment practices and long-term sustained engagement with local disability groups that could offer both accountability and insight.

Key Components for Disability Inclusive Culture

Enterprise-Wide Access

The presence of the following accessibility policies and practices in satellite locations were highly correlated with active disability-focused Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) and leadership allies across both Global DEI pilot phases.

This correlation appears to be true even for satellite locations within the same company, regardless of the region. There were a few notable exceptions, with some companies taking an enterprise-wide approach to implementing accessibility. Aside from these exceptions, the data consistently showed satellite locations with active disability-focused ERGs and engaged local executive sponsors had more affirmative responses for Enterprise-Wide Access.

  • Accessible physical locations and emergency plans that incorporate multiple ways to provide assistance to people with disabilities
  • Digital procurement guidelines with
    built-in accessibility requirements
  • Commitment to accessible internal
    and external communications

The availability of low-cost accessible technology continues to be a benefit for companies that have increased their commitment to accessibility following the pandemic and emergence of hybrid workspaces. A commitment to implementing an accessibility plan for digital products and requirements was cited by 42% of Global DEI companies in 2022 compared with just 28% in 2021. Similar commitments to accessible external communications were also present among Global DEI companies with 43% affirming such practices in 2022 compared with 27% in 2021. Some of the biggest improvements were found in China, India, the Philippines, Brazil, and Mexico which all boast large populations under 35, and possess known agility in adapting to new technologies.

A commitment to implementing an accessibility plan for digital products and requirements was cited by 42% of Global DEI companies in 2022 compared with just 28% in 2021.

Similar commitments to accessible external communications were also present among Global DEI companies with 43% affirming such practices in 2022 compared with 27% in 2021.

Some of the biggest improvements were found in China, India, the Philippines, Brazil, and Mexico which all boast large populations under 35, and possess known agility in adapting to new technologies.

Adjustments and Accommodations

Each country uses its own legal definition of disability, and some definitions cover a much wider range of disabilities than others. It is therefore rare to find a written disability accommodations policy that is standardized for all satellite locations. The majority ( 62%) of Global DEI companies reported having written disability accommodations policies, although they differed from country to country. Additionally, 55% of Global DEI companies have a written disability accommodations procedure, however just 33% indicated having a dedicated in-house or outsourced accommodations specialist.

Employment Practices

The percentage of Global DEI companies offering mental health or employee assistance programs (EAPs) jumped from 75% in 2021 to 92% in 2022. Covid-19 normalized discussions of non-apparent disabilities in many countries, especially those related to mental health. Conversely, a vast discrepancy was found in the percentage of Global DEI companies that provide at least partial vision coverage (76%) when compared to those that offer hearing aid and hearing care (38%). This can somewhat be attributed to hearing care being covered through government healthcare in many countries, however the wide disparity presents a potential missed opportunity. Opportunities also persist related to advancement and retention as only 21% of Global DEI companies have such programs that are inclusive of people with disabilities. Fewer still (14%) reported having advancement and retention programs specifically designed for employees with disabilities.

Community Engagement

This category showed the greatest variation between satellite locations, perhaps because satellites have more flexibility in deciding which local initiatives to publicly support. Disabled leaders and allies drove the agenda for companies that were highly active even in the pandemic, and who built strong relationships with disability-focused non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and philanthropic groups. This better positioned them to address the needs of the disability community, both within their company and externally. Satellite locations with an Employee Resource Group (ERG) were much more likely to have held a focus group, conducted market research, and worked with a disability consultant or expert on identifying areas of opportunity.

In Brazil, India, and the Philippines, community engagement was heavily influenced by grassroots involvement, local partnerships, and a growing awareness that the empowerment of individuals with disabilities is conducive to sustainable economic development. In all three areas, the challenges were evident in the absence of supportive infrastructure such as limited access to accessible transportation and poor enforcement of laws requiring buildings to be accessible to those with limited mobility. Company locations that sustained a rigorous level of engagement with disability groups focused on these issues were spurred to do so by their in-country or regional ERGs.

Supplier Diversity

Most Global DEI companies currently have supplier diversity/responsible procurement programs inclusive of disability-owned businesses in the United States. Disability-owned businesses in the U.S., Canada, and the United Kingdom are reliably certified by trusted entities, however that same robust ecosystem is still in its nascent stages in many of the countries surveyed by the Global DEI. Supplier diversity questions will remain a part of the Global DEI for information-gathering purposes with the intent that data will inform future efforts to scale certification programs for disability-owned businesses in additional markets.


Organizations have undoubtedly faced challenges in prioritizing diversity, equity, and inclusion amidst financial constraints, and for many multinational companies the current economic climate continues to impact the rollout of more ambitious disability inclusion plans. However, it is necessary to recognize that promoting disability inclusion during an economic slowdown brings significant advantages in the long-term, most crucially in building a resilient workforce with low turnover rates. When asked about their rationale for maintaining a strong commitment to disability inclusion through economic downturns, companies that performed well on the Global DEI reported that investing in inclusivity strengthened their reputation and stakeholder relationships while fostering innovation and trust among their employees. In countries with minimal enforcement around disability rights, that consistent commitment to inclusion from multinational companies challenges popular misconceptions around the employment of people with disabilities. This can lead to a broader cultural shift where people with disabilities are viewed as valuable contributors to society, capable of achieving great things when provided equal opportunities.

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