Demonstrating its ongoing commitment to equity and inclusion for individuals with disabilities, Rush University Medical Center is among the top-scoring organizations on the 2021 Disability Equality Index for the third year in a row. With a score of 80%, Rush earns the honor of being named one of the nation’s “Best Places to Work for Disability Inclusion.”
“Achieving DEI recognition for the third consecutive year helps cement Rush’s disability inclusion policies and practices as our new ‘floor,’ while making it clear that we are still reaching and striving to achieve even more in the future,” said Kevin Irvine, senior talent acquisition consultant for individuals with disabilities at the Medical Center.
“Following the best practices identified in the Disability Equality Index is aligned with Rush’s ICARE values and creates an environment that is more inclusive, equitable and innovative for everyone, even if they don’t self-identify as a person with a disability,” Irvine added.
The DEI is a prominent benchmarking tool for organizations to gauge their level of disability workplace inclusion against other organizations. The tool was developed by the American Association of People with Disabilities and Disability:IN, a nonprofit resource for business disability inclusion worldwide. These national leaders are supported by a diverse committee made up of experts in business, policy and sustainability advocacy.
Scores are on a scale from 0 to 100, but a score of 100 is not meant to convey the idea of perfection. There is no one “right" way to practice inclusion, according to the AAPD and Disability:IN, and some efforts may be more practical for some companies or industries than others. Organizations that are top scorers, earning 80% and higher, adhere to many of the leading disability inclusion practices featured in the DEI.
High scores score big with candidates
This high score makes the Medical Center a place of great interest to potential new hires. From July 2020 to June 2021, the Medical Center has hired nearly 90 individuals who self-identified as having a disability. In the first six months of 2021 compared to the same time period in 2020, the percentage of applicants who self-identified as individuals with disabilities increased by 55%.
The honor is a particular source of pride with employees who recognize the Medical Center’s commitment to disability inclusion.
“Rush’s commitment to disability inclusion means the world to me, especially as someone who didn’t think being diabetic was a disability in the first place,” said LeNora Rodriguez, administrative assistant for the Road Home Program at Rush. “It comforts me to know that Rush truly cares about those with all disabilities, even an invisible disability.”
“I am a military veteran with multiple disabilities. Rush has always sought to accommodate my needs related to my disabilities whether, as a student or an employee,” said Tanya Friese, DNP, assistant professor in the Rush University College of Nursing.
“On occasion, honestly, there have been individuals who were either not willing to give me a chance or did not understand that my ‘limitations’ were valid and true. Rush has always seen and recognized my abilities — taking the ‘dis’ out of the term,” Friese added.
“I am proud to work for Rush University Medical Center because they strive to increase disability inclusion. As someone with an invisible disability, I feel welcomed and understood by those who I work with, and I am even able to connect with others with a variety of disabilities by participating in Rush's Disability Employee Resource Group,” said Sergio Alfaro, MS, Epic technical trainer for clinical information systems. “I have been able to broaden my network, access more opportunities, and gain new friends from my time here.”
The value of establishing and supporting Rush’s Disabilities Employee Resource Group over the past two years was recognized during the COVID-19 pandemic, when employees with disabilities partnered with Rush audiologists to advocate for the purchase and distribution of clear face masks.
“This initiative has ensured clearer communication for many at Rush: clinicians, support staff, faculty, students, patients, visitors and even young children whose parents depend on our Laurance Armour Day School for education and child care,” explained Irvine, who is facilitator of the Rush Disabilities Employee Resource Group.
What goes into scoring
In 2021, nearly 320 corporations, including Fortune 100, Fortune 500 and Fortune 1000 companies, used the DEI to benchmark their disability inclusion efforts. This year's DEI measured the following areas:
- Community engagement
- Culture and leadership
- Employment practices (accommodations, benefits, education, employment, recruitment, retention and advancement)
- Enterprisewide access
- Non-U.S. operations
- Supplier diversity
In response to the global pandemic, in 2021, the DEI added new, unweighted questions about innovative technology to advance digital and remote accessibility, mental wellness benefits, services for employees who are deaf and hard of hearing, and flexible work options.
The value add of DEI
Now in its seventh year, the DEI helps businesses address the unemployment and underemployment of people with disabilities and reflects organizations’ commitment to inclusion.
“Inclusion and accessibility cuts across the enterprise, from cultural representation in the workforce, to technology acceleration, to incorporating supply chain diversity,” said Jill Houghton, president and CEO of Disability:IN. “These are tangible opportunities that leading companies can leverage to create sustainable impact for their business and brand.”