Disability:IN’s annual index found that just 4.5% of workers self-identify as disabled.

While disabled US workers have historically had some of the highest unemployment rates, the data shows that the last three years have seen tremendous progress in reducing the community’s unemployment rate. This is largely due to more flexible and remote work.

However, Disability:IN, an organization that aims to increase disability representation across business life cycles, found in its annual Disability Equality Index (DEI) survey that despite progress, disabled talent is still vastly underrepresented.

Overview. The DEI has been released every year since 2015. Some 485 companies with a total of 16.9 million US-based employees participated this year.

While disabled people account for approximately one in four Americans, just 4.5% of hires at participating companies self-identified as disabled (up 0.5% from 2022). But the actual number of disabled employees is likely much higher, since many disabled people are afraid to disclose their disability status to their employer.

“It’s clear that many disabled people have to think carefully about when, or if, to mention their disability to potential employers. This is a real dilemma—if they mention it, they risk being discriminated against, and if they don’t, they can’t ask for any adjustments they might need and may be at a disadvantage. This is a stress not encountered by the non-disabled candidates they may be competing against for jobs,” Jane Hatton, CEO of Evenbreak, a job connector for disabled talent, told Forbes.

Inclusive foundations. The survey found that there are some disability inclusion efforts that the majority of companies report doing. For example, 89% reported having a disability-focused ERG (up 1% from 2022), and 99% said they offer “flexible” work options (96% in 2022). Furthermore, 93% of companies said they have a formal disability accommodation policy.

There are some efforts that Disability:IN tracks that haven’t gained as much traction. Just 57% of respondents said they have disability-centered hiring goals, down 3% from 2022. And only one in four include data on disability representation in their diversity reports (compared to 22% last year).

Accommodations. One of the misgivings about employing disabled people is that providing accommodations is expensive. However, a study from the Job Accommodation Network in May found that the majority of accommodations cost a one-time average of $300 and many don’t cost employers any money. As such, Disability:IN found that 58% of companies have a centralized fund dedicated to providing accessible accommodations, up slightly from 2022 (55%). Furthermore, more companies are informing job candidates that interview adaptations are available, with 69% doing so in 2023, up from 61% just a year ago.

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