What Are Disability Employee Resource Groups?

The Power of Community: Disability ERGs, or Employee Resource Groups

Creating Effective ERGs to Support Employees with Disabilities

Chances are, if you are not a member of the disability or advocacy communities, you may not have heard of these tremendously powerful initiatives. But if you are an employer or team manager, if you work in human resources, or if you wish to improve conditions in the workplace for yourself or your colleagues, you should learn more about them.


Disability Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) are employee-led groups within organizations that focus on speaking up for disability inclusion in the workplace. Sometimes also referred to as Business Resource Groups (BRGs) or Affinity Groups, these internal structures create a space for employees with disabilities to connect, share experiences, and advocate for their needs. The intended purpose of Disability ERGs is to create a more accessible and inclusive work environment for all employees.

ERGs support employees with disabilities in several ways. They provide advocacy by representing the interests of employees with disabilities to management, making sure that their voices are heard in organizational decision-making processes. An ERG can also offer resources and information on disability rights, accommodations, and assistive technologies. These disability resource group initiatives offer a support system that is often employee-led, but which can also be initiated by or encouraged by management. And, ERGs help create a sense of community by providing a platform for employees with disabilities to connect and network on a peer footing, mentor each other at many levels, work on issues together, and build social connections.

Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) in general are open to all employees interested in participating. These groups typically center around shared characteristics or experiences. Examples include ERGs for veterans, minority groups, individuals with disabilities, and those who identify as LGBTQ+. For disability-focused ERGs, membership can extend to employees with disabilities they had from birth, as well as those with disabilities acquired through injury or accident, those who care for disabled family members, and individuals who have developed disabilities later in life.

Key Objectives of Disability ERGs

Disability ERGs have several central aims as part of their mission:

Advocacy & Awareness

ERGs educate the broader organization about disability-related issues, raise awareness of disability issues within the organization, and advocate for changes in policies, practices, and in the physical work environment to improve accessibility for employees with disabilities.

Support & Networking

ERGs provide a supportive network for employees with disabilities. They can share information about accommodations, assistive technologies, success stories, and strategies for reaching milestones in day-to-day productivity and over the span of a career.

Professional Development

ERGs can offer professional development opportunities for employees with disabilities, such as workshops on topics like self-advocacy or navigating disability leave. With opportunities for skill-building and career advancement, they provide employees with disabilities equal access to growth opportunities.

Organizational Benefits Of Disability ERGs

Organizations of almost any size, but especially larger entities and corporations, gain significant advantages and in some cases a defining competitive edge by establishing and supporting Disability ERGs.

These disability employee resource groups can help to create a more inclusive work environment where employees with disabilities feel valued and respected, attracting and retaining diverse talent for a more innovative workforce.

When employees with disabilities feel supported, they are more likely to be motivated and committed as well, leading them to be more engaged and productive in their work.

Feelings of Support & Being Valued
Attract & Retain Diverse Talent
Motivation & Commitment

ERGs can also serve as an internal focus group, providing valuable insights for businesses on the needs and perspectives of people with disabilities. As well as its main purpose of bettering the workplace environment for employees with disabilities by informing better decision-making and policy development, this information can also be used to improve products, services, and marketing strategies, helping to better serve a broader customer base.

Setting Up a Disability Employee Resource Group (ERG)

Here's a step-by-step guide to establishing a Disability ERG in your organization:

Initial Steps

  1. Gauge Interest
    Begin by assessing employee interest in an ERG. Conduct surveys or hold information sessions to determine if there's enough support to move forward.
  2. Assess Needs
    Evaluate the initially obvious needs of employees with disabilities within the organization. Understand the gaps in support and the potential objectives of the Disability ERG.
  3. Get Leadership Buy-In
    Gain backing and sponsorship from senior management. This helps leadership demonstrate their commitment to inclusion, and helps the ERG secure resources.
  4. Develop Steering Committee
    Form a small group of employees with disabilities and allies to lead the ERG's development. Coordinate this with human resources where appropriate.
  5. Set Goals & Metrics
    Establish specific, measurable goals for the ERG, and express them in a clear mission statement that outlines the ERG's purpose, goals, and values. This will guide all activities and initiatives. Determine how success will be measured to mark progress and improvement.
  6. Don’t Reinvent The Wheel
    Yours isn’t the first ERG, so find out what others have done successfully before you in starting and running their groups. Several professional organizations offer resources and toolkits for establishing and managing ERGs. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund (DREDF) are good starting points.

    And, read through this ERG toolkit from Disability:IN.


  1. Open Membership
    Invite all employees to join the ERG, emphasizing inclusivity. Membership should be open to individuals with disabilities, allies, and those interested in disability advocacy.
  2. Outreach
    Promote the ERG through various internal channels like company newsletters, internal social media platforms, and disability awareness events. Highlight the benefits of joining and the group's objectives.
  3. Membership Drives
    Organize events to attract more members, such as informational sessions, workshops, and social gatherings. These events can help build momentum.

Activities & Programs

  1. Identify Specific Needs
    Conduct surveys or hold focus groups to understand the specific needs and interests of ERG members.
  2. Plan Activities
    Provide a variety of activities that address member needs. This could include workshops on disability rights, mentoring programs, or social events to build a sense of community within the ERG. These events should be accessible and welcoming to all members.
  3. Advocacy Initiatives
    Develop programs that advocate for workplace accessibility and inclusivity. This could include policy reviews, accessibility audits, and recommendations for improvement.
  4. Resource Sharing
    Develop a repository of resources, such as guides on accessibility tools, information on workplace accommodations, and contacts for disability services. Make these resources easily accessible to all members, and invite members to share their own recommended resources.
  5. Accessibility
    Make sure that all the ERG’s activities and programs are accessible for people with disabilities. Offer materials in alternate formats and provide assistive technologies when needed.

By beginning well and continuing with purpose and determination, disability advocates and persons with disabilities within organizations can follow the steps above to establish and maintain a successful disability ERG that helps support employees with disabilities and contributes to the creation of a more inclusive workplace.

And, while most disability ERGs are started and propelled forward by employees, human resources and team leaders may also consider initiating such an effort: a disability ERG provides so many benefits to the organization’s employees that creating an ERG of this type is well worth the investment of resources.

Accessible First: Opening Up ERG Materials & Communications

Making sure all ERG materials and communications are accessible is fundamental to creating an inclusive environment. When all employees can participate in the ERG and fully benefit from its activities, including those with disabilities, the group’s aims can be fulfilled in a way that aligns with its foundational intent.

And, demonstrating commitment to inclusivity and respect for all employees in this active and practical way:

  • Prevents exclusion
  • Establishes a sense of belonging
  • Provides equal access to information and opportunities
  • Promotes fairness and equity within the ERG, and
  • Means that the ERG effectively addresses the needs and concerns of all its members

Creating Accessible Content

Following the W3C’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) helps organizations communicate inclusively. Here are some tools and strategies to create accessible content per WCAG requirements:

  • Use Descriptive Text
    Include clear and concise alternative text descriptions for all images and non-text content.
  • Structure Correctly
    To improve the user experience for users with and without disabilities, and for compatibility with screen readers, keep a consistent, logical layout and use headings, subheadings, and lists. This improves the organization, functional navigability, and readability of documents, websites, applications and interfaces.
  • Check Color Contrast
    Verify that there is adequate color contrast between text and background colors, for easy reading by people with visual impairments including low vision and color blindness.
  • Set Keyboard Navigation
    Design websites and documents to be navigable using a keyboard, not just a mouse. This makes them accessible for users with mobility impairments.
  • Use Accessible Fonts
    Choose fonts that are clear, comfortably spaced, and easy to read for all users, including those with low vision and dyslexia.

It should be noted that the W3C lists a thorough organizational consideration of accessibility in their maturity model.

Accessible Technology Solutions for ERG Activities

To facilitate participation in ERG activities for employees with disabilities, group leaders should select several of the most relevant available accessible technology solutions. These may include:

Captioning Services

Provide real-time captioning for all video content and live events. This helps employees who are deaf or hard of hearing to follow along.

Screen Readers

Offer materials in formats compatible with screen reader software, which announces text as speech for users who are blind or visually impaired.

Assistive Listening

Provide assistive listening devices for meetings and presentations to assist people with hearing loss.

Accessible Meetings

Use meeting platforms that offer built-in accessibility features like screen reader compatibility, keyboard shortcuts, and live captioning.

Live Text Services

Consider offering live transcription or note-taking services for meetings or events as an alternative way for attendees to access information.

By prioritizing accessible communication and making good use of assistive technology, Disability ERGs can help create a more inclusive experience for all members. And, by championing these practices for all employees, that sense of working in a welcoming environment can spread across the organization. 

Common Disability ERG Hurdles & Responsive Strategies


Where The Problem Lies
One of the most significant challenges Disability ERGs face is securing adequate funding from the organization. These activities often require resources for things like meeting space rentals, speaker fees, or accessibility equipment. Without sufficient financial backing, it becomes difficult to organize events, create resources, and provide necessary support to members. This can hinder the group’s ability to achieve its goals and sustain activities over time.

Getting Past It
Develop a clear budget outlining ERG expenses and present it to relevant decision-makers within the organization. Highlight the value proposition of the ERG, showing a compelling business case to senior leadership to secure ongoing financial support.


Where The Problem Lies
Maintaining member interest and participation in ERG activities can be an ongoing challenge. Employees might be initially enthusiastic about joining the ERG, but sustaining their involvement over time requires continuous effort. Balancing ERG participation with competing work priorities can also be a barrier for many employees.

Getting Past It
Offer a variety of activities that serve the diverse interests and needs of members. Promote activities through multiple channels and encourage participation through incentives or recognition programs.


Where The Problem Lies
Disability ERGs may struggle to gain visibility within the organization. Without widespread awareness, the ERG may not attract new members, gain support from leadership, or influence organizational policies. Low visibility can also mean a lack of recognition for the group’s efforts and successes.

Getting Past It
Partner with internal communication teams to boost the ERG’s visibility through company newsletters, social media platforms, and internal events. ERG leaders can also volunteer to speak at company-wide meetings or diversity and inclusion conferences.

By addressing these challenges strategically, Disability ERGs can become thriving resources for employees with disabilities and a valuable asset for organizations seeking to build a more inclusive workplace.

Success Stories: Disability ERGs Making a Difference

Disability ERGs can be powerful agents for positive change within organizations. Here are three examples of successful ERGs that have demonstrably improved the workplace experience for employees with disabilities:

Microsoft's Disability Ability Network

Microsoft‘s disability ERG is a well-known group effort with a long history of advocacy. The group played a key role in the development of accessible features within Microsoft products, including screen readers and improved keyboard navigation. It also sponsors mentoring programs and career development workshops specifically designed for employees with disabilities. These initiatives have contributed to a more inclusive work environment at Microsoft and have set a positive standard for accessibility in the tech industry.

The Disability ERG at Microsoft focuses on advocacy, accessibility, and community building. They have been instrumental in influencing the company’s approach to inclusive design, building products and services that are accessible to all users. Through their efforts, Microsoft has developed tools that make everything from working with office documents to gaming more inclusive.

This group also supports professional development by offering mentorship programs and networking opportunities. Their advocacy work has led to improved workplace accommodations, such as adjustable workstations and accessible meeting rooms. The visibility and success of Microsoft’s Disability ERG have made it a model for other organizations aiming to better their inclusion efforts.

JPMorgan Chase's Accessibility Committee

JPMorgan Chase‘s Accessibility Committee, which functions as a disability ERG, has focused on improving physical accessibility within the company's branches and office buildings. The committee has also advocated for the adoption of accessible technology and promoted awareness of disability rights among employees. These efforts have resulted in a more welcoming environment for employees with disabilities and have helped JPMorgan Chase attract top talent from a wider pool of qualified candidates.

IBM’s Disability Inclusion Group

IBM‘s Disability Inclusion Group is another example of a successful Disability ERG. This group is dedicated to creating a workplace that supports employees with disabilities through various initiatives and programs. They focus on three main areas: accessibility, career development, and community engagement.

One of the significant achievements of IBM’s Disability Inclusion Group is the development of the IBM Accessibility Center of Excellence. This center focuses on integrating accessibility into all aspects of the company's operations, from product development to customer support. The group has also influenced the creation of IBM’s AbleTech platform, which provides accessible technology solutions for employees and clients.

In terms of career development, the Disability Inclusion Group offers training and mentorship programs designed to help employees with disabilities advance in their careers. They also host regular events and workshops to raise awareness about disability issues and promote a more inclusive culture.

These examples demonstrate how effective Disability ERGs can bring about positive changes within organizations. By focusing on advocacy, accessibility, and community, these groups create a more inclusive and supportive environment for all employees.

Disability ERGs: Your Org’s Accessible Way Up

Creating and maintaining a Disability Employee Resource Group is a well-considered move that enriches the workplace environment. These groups advocate for employees with disabilities and contribute to the overall organizational culture by promoting inclusivity and diversity. Through focused efforts on accessibility, professional development, and community building, Disability ERGs help in addressing the unique needs of their members, and of all organizational employees.

By cultivating a community where employees with disabilities feel supported and valued, ERGs contribute to a more engaged workforce and a wider range of perspectives within the organization. Better problem-solving, improved products, and a stronger employer brand can all follow. Investing in Disability ERGs is a smart business decision that pays off for employees, management, and the organization as a whole.

Organizations that invest in Disability ERGs see benefits such as increased employee engagement, and are likely to gain valuable insights into creating a more inclusive workplace. By overcoming challenges and pushing ahead, these groups can thrive and make significant contributions to their organizations and everyone in them. Effective Disability ERGs can lead to substantial positive changes, making workplaces more supportive and inclusive for all.


I’d like to join a disability ERG at my job, but I don't have a disability. Can I still be involved?

Absolutely! ERGs welcome allies who are interested in working towards greater disability inclusion in the workplace. You can support the group and help in advocating for accessibility.

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