2023 Disability Equality Index® Uncovers Uneven Adoption of Corporate Disability Inclusion Practices

9 out of 10 companies encourage self-identification but rates hover at 4.5%, and only 7% report disability representation on their board of directors 

Read the 2023 DEI Report

ALEXANDRIA, VA. (July 10, 2023) Disability:IN, the global organization driving disability inclusion and equality in business, and the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD), today published findings from the 2023 Disability Equality Index® (DEI), the world’s largest and most comprehensive benchmarking tool for the Fortune 1000 and Am Law 200 to measure disability workplace inclusion among corporate peers. 

A total of 485 corporations across 30 diverse industries including technology, banking and healthcare utilized the DEI in 2023 to benchmark their disability inclusion efforts, a 17% increase in participation from 2022. In addition to a growing contingent of Am Law 200 firms, more than 70% of the Fortune 100 and nearly half of the Fortune 500 participated this year.  

The 2023 report debuts a new framework that illustrates the lifecycle of disability inclusive practices by examining rates of adoption. With this new framework, we now have critical insight into how best practices become industry standards,” said Jill Houghton, President & CEO, Disability:IN. “The DEI isn’t just about a score; it’s about illuminating practices that have the most impact. Equipped with this knowledge, businesses today have an unprecedented opportunity to embrace the innovation and unique perspectives that talent with disabilities bring to the table.”  

2023 DEI Highlights 

The 2023 DEI report revealed encouraging signs of ways companies are implementing more disability inclusion throughout their corporate culture, leadership, employment and accessibility programs and practices from the previous year, such as:  

  • 93% encourage their employees with disabilities to self-identify, up from 91% in 2022.  
  • 72% market directly to the disability community by depicting people with disabilities in their external or internal marketing and/or advertising materials, up from 70% in 2022. 
  • 64% report having a requirement to make their digital products accessible and usable for people with disabilities, up from 62% in 2022.

On the other hand, the report revealed key areas for sustained attention in the years ahead:   

  • While 69% of companies issue annual diversity reports, only 24% include disability data in their reporting.  
  • 40% audit their internally facing digital products for accessibility.  
  • The voluntary self-identification rate among employees at participating companies hovers at 4.5%, up slightly from 4% in 2022. 
  • Only 7% of companies incorporate disability into documents that outline the nomination of corporate 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. 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,” said Ted Kennedy, Jr., co-chair of the Disability Equality Index and board member of AAPD. 

The DEI covers Culture & Leadership, Enterprise-Wide Access, Employment Practices, Community Engagement, Supplier Diversity and Non-U.S. Operations. Each company participating in the DEI receives a score, on a scale of zero (0) to 100, with those earning 80 and above recognized as a “Best Place to Work for Disability Inclusion.” 

Global Disability Equality Index Pilot  

Additionally, Disability:IN and AAPD piloted the Global Disability Equality Index (GDEI), gaining critical data to expand the reach of the U.S. DEI and help companies build sustainable, culturally competent progress worldwide. In 2024 the DEI will, for the first time, offer scored benchmarks for companies in Brazil, Canada, Germany, India, Japan, the Philippines, the United Kingdom, and the United States. 

“The findings of the 2023 Disability Equality Index reveal that while promising progress has been made, there is more work to be done. As we look to the future of the DEI, we’ll set our focus on critical action areas that we believe have the potential to create meaningful change for people with disabilities in business,” Houghton added. These initiatives include:  

  • Pulling back the curtain on corporate governance: The 2023 DEI revealed that people with disabilities are drastically underrepresented in corporate governance. Very few companies include disability in their definition of board diversity, leaving disability out of criterion for nominating of new directors. Even fewer companies disclose board-level disability figures, making it difficult to track disability representation at the highest levels of business.   
  • Increasing voluntary self-identification rates: The median voluntary corporate self-identification rate rose to 4.5% in 2023 from 4% in 2022, a number that doesn’t adequately reflect the 15% of the world’s population directly affected by disability. Creating a disability inclusive culture is the key to increasing voluntary self-identification rates and attracting talent with disabilities.  
  • Accelerating corporate accessibility action: Most of the accessibility practices in the DEI showed incremental gains in adoption rates from 2022, including 64% of companies reporting having a requirement to ensure that digital products are accessible and useable for individuals with disabilities, up from 62% in 2022 and 57% indicating that they audit their external-facing digital products for accessibility, up from 54% in 2022. However, these figures underscore that while corporate accessibility actions are advancing, most are still practiced by fewer than two-thirds of DEI participants—further evidenced by just 40% that audit their internal-facing digital products for accessibility, up from 36% in 2022.  
  • Deepening disability focus in supplier diversity: While the DEI uncovered that 84% of participating companies have a dedicated leader or manager responsible for supplier diversity at their organization, just 25% reported having company-wide disability-focused supplier diversity goals and 22% indicating that they require at least some of their prime suppliers to have expenditures with Disability-Owned Business Enterprises® (DOBEs) in their Tier 2 supplier diversity programs. 

Registration for the 2024 DEI opens in Fall 2023 at DisabilityEqualityIndex.org.

About Disability:IN

Disability:IN is a global organization driving disability inclusion and equality in business. More than 500 corporations partner with Disability:IN to create long-term business and social impact through the world’s most comprehensive disability inclusion benchmarking and reporting tool, the Disability Equality Index (DEI); best-in-class conferences and programs; expert counsel and engagement; and public policy leadership. To learn more about Disability:IN’s key initiatives including Boards Are IN, Investors are IN, and CEOs Are IN, visit www.disabilityin.org

About the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD)

AAPD is a convener, connector, and catalyst for change, increasing the political and economic power for people with disabilities. As a national cross-disability rights organization, AAPD advocates for full civil rights for the 60+ million Americans with disabilities. Learn more at: www.aapd.com

Read the 2023 DEI Report