It is important that businesses and other organizations consider how budgeting can be enabling, and exclusionary, to the inclusion of persons with disabilities within their workforce, product development, services and projects and programs.
While there is no perfect formula for how to budget to ensure persons with disabilities are able to access your business as employees and consumers, some standard line items can help your business as you start on your inclusion journey. The follow information is aimed at “mainstream” businesses that are not providing targeted services specifically for persons with disabilities.
- Human resources should allocate a separate budget line earmarked only for reasonable accommodation and accessibility. It is important to separate this budget line from programmatic or product development costs to ensure it is not used for other purposes.
- Organizations like Mobility International USA recommend allocating 1 – 3% estimated of a business’ administrative costs for accessibility needs.
- Periodically staff will request to use budget lines for reasonable accommodation for other purposes – especially if the budget line is not separated. It is important that this budget line is not touched except for accommodation and accessibility needs. There is no way to anticipate employee turnover and the needs of potential new hires, and no way to anticipate an employee becoming disabled due to age, changes in health condition, accidents, etc. throughout the year. Therefore, it is important that this budget line stays untouched.
- Ideally, marketing and communications materials are “universally designed” to be accessible for people with and without disabilities. However, sometimes this is not possible, and specific materials are needed (e.g. easy – to read versions of documents for neuro-diverse individuals) – therefore, the marketing & communications team should earmark a specific budget line to ensure accessibility of all materials.
Project or Program Operations
- Mobility International USA estimates that 3-5% of the total program cost for “mainstream” projects or programs (those targeting the general population, not just people with disabilities) should be allocated towards accessibility and reasonable accommodation.
- The design of products and services will be directly influenced by the identities of the people making and testing your products. Including people with disabilities in your product development team and user testing with people with disabilities will help your business design a product that is more universally accessible for persons with disabilities.
- User testing with people with disabilities may incur small additional costs, especially if this is your first time intentionally targeting persons with disabilities as users. For example, people with disabilities may require the support of caretakers or support staff to participate in user testing sessions. If you are paying users throughout your prototyping cycle, budgeting for the participation of caretakers, etc. will be important. Another example: your office may not be accessible for people with disabilities. It may be easier to meet users with disabilities in alternative locations, and this may incur additional costs. Alternatively, perhaps you are user testing with people who are deaf, and need to hire sign language interpreters for the session. All of these are examples of costs that are important to budget for when designing a product.
- Regardless of the type of good or service you are providing, it’s imperative that you examine the various factors that enable service delivery (e.g. the employees or workers that provide the service, the tools and equipment needed, and the facilities or physical environment in which the service is delivered) and how they make create barriers for people with disabilities to accessing these services.
- Barriers that people with disabilities may face to accessing your services could be within the facility or built environment, attitudinal, with specific equipment, communication based and/or within the workflow of the service delivery. For example, services often require verbal, reading and written communication in order to complete some type of transaction. However, people who are blind and deaf may face barriers to completing these transactions.
- Based on potential identified barriers, businesses can budget for accommodations to ensure people with disabilities can equally access their services. Many accommodations (e.g. environmental adaptations to ensure accessibility of facilities) are one-time costs.
You may notice that while line items are suggested above, specific costs were not assigned to these lines. That is because the cost of inclusion will differ in every country, and depend on the current infrastructure of your business and the environment in which you live. The bottom line: intentional, proactive, inclusive budgeting sets up businesses to welcome persons with disabilities as employees and consumers.