Employee self-identification and board representation rates remain low, according to a new disability equality index.

Companies are making strides in implementing more disability inclusion practices throughout their corporate culture, but several key areas need sustained attention in coming years, according to a July 10 report from the 2023 Disability Equality Index by Disability:IN and the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD).

For instance, more than 90% of companies encourage their employees with disabilities to self-identify, which has increased in recent years. However, voluntary self-identification remains low, around 4.5%, and only 7% of companies report disability representation on their board of directors.

“Boards govern more effectively when members bring a diversity of abilities and perspectives to the table, but disability continues to lag behind gender and ethnicity in board diversity considerations,” Ted Kennedy, Jr., co-chair of the Disability Equality Index and board member of AAPD, said in a statement.

“We strongly encourage companies to seek out, appoint and report on board-level disability representation to achieve their corporate social responsibility commitments and catalyze opportunities for the 1.3 billion people with disabilities around the world,” he said.

This year, 485 corporations across 30 industries used the index to benchmark their disability inclusion efforts, marking a 17% increase in participation from last year. In addition, more than 70% of the Fortune 100 and nearly half of the Fortune 500 participated.

Several metrics showed improvement from 2022. About 93% of corporations encourage their employees with disabilities to self-identify, up from 91% in 2022. In addition, 72% market directly to the disability community by depicting people with disabilities in their external or internal marketing or advertising materials, up from 70%. About 64% also have a requirement to make their digital products accessible and usable for people with disabilities, up from 62%.

At the same time, some areas had uneven adoption. About 69% of companies issue annual diversity reports, yet only 24% include disability data. Despite generally high rates of digital product accessibility, only 40% audit their internally facing digital products for accessibility.

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