Make Disability Inclusion a Priority in 2024
Because workplace culture in many law firms continues to hold on to ableist ideas about who is capable of succeeding as a lawyer, lawyers are far more likely than workers in other professions to hide a disability from their employers and colleagues. This lack of visibility furthers the misconception that lawyers with disabilities can’t experience inclusion in law firms, which dissuades younger disabled lawyers from considering the law firm career path, trapping these organizations in a toxic cycle.
But there is hope. Many firms are recognizing that they are losing out on valuable talent, and are embracing disability inclusion as the next phase of their work to become more diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplaces. Diversity Lab recently announced a new cohort that includes more than 90 law firms who have committed to take concrete actions to improve inclusion for people with disabilities within their firms and in the legal industry as a whole. Your firm may not be one of the 90 to go first, but the new year presents an opportunity for all firms to emulate their efforts. Here are a few of the 10 disability inclusion actions the Diversity Lab cohort has committed to taking:
- Conduct an annual survey for lawyers and business professionals to identify as having a disability. “Well-timed outreach, multi-pronged communications, and workforce re/education can curate a company culture that supports self-identification with a trusting, informed, disability inclusive community.” There is a way to get this right.
- Remove physical barriers for employees, clients, and other constituents. Many office suites, especially those in older buildings, were not designed with inclusive principles in mind. Learn more about Inclusive Design and work to implement it in your space.
- Remove digital barriers for employees, clients, and other constituents. Have you audited your firm website and intranet for accessibility? Here’s a good place to start.
- Increase opportunities to hire disabled people. The community of people with disabilities is huge and represents a pool of untapped talent. Check out this great series of ABA video interviews on why firms should hire more people with disabilities.
- Add disability inclusion to the board’s and/or management committee’s agenda. Disability inclusion cannot improve unless firm leaders make it a priority. Here are some key traits leaders can foster as they begin speaking out on this issue.
Change takes time, but it begins with action. Could your firm commit to one or more of these disability inclusion actions in 2024?