The global accessibility conversation evolves and expands every day. As we continue to strive for a more accessible world, some of the globe’s top companies have now banded together to push those efforts forward in a way we haven’t seen before. Meet the Valuable 500, a global movement placing the need for accessibility and inclusion of those with disabilities at the forefront of business leadership agendas. This worldwide action is unique in that it consists of 500 of the globe’s leading companies spanning 36 countries worldwide, the largest of its kind. From Verizon to Google to Sony, these companies have committed to working together to bring real and effective change in how society thinks of disabilities.
Responding to a global need
Approximately 15 percent of the world’s population live with at least one disability, making this the largest minority group worldwide. Some people may be born with disabilities, and others may develop over time. Additionally, anyone can have a disability regardless of their class, gender, social status, or other individual factors. The constant fact remains that an individual’s disability may affect various ways they interact with the world around them.
Those with disabilities can face significant barriers due to misinformation, inaccurate stereotypes, and lack of education surrounding many disabilities. In the United States alone, there’s a tremendous disparity between unemployment for those with disabilities versus those without. Also, a 2017 COQUAL study finds that approximately 30% of US employees had disabilities to the only 3.2% reporting such disabilities to their employers. There is still much stigma around living with disabilities in the United States and worldwide, and The Valuable 500 arose in response to this inequity.
The founder and creator of The Valuable 500, Caroline Casey, highlighted many of these inequalities at the World Economic Forum in 2019, the inception of the global initiative. Along with Caroline Casey were Unilever CEO Paul Polman, Virgin Media, OmnicomGroup, and One Young World, all committed to leading The Valuable 500 as it continued to grow and develop.
In 2021, The Valuable 500 reached its goal of 500 dedicated CEOs worldwide. With a solid community of world business leaders in tow, Caroline Casey and the founding companies revealed the next phase of the global initiative to be all about building genuinely inclusive and accessible business systems that benefit employees and consumers, as well as help influence international discussions surrounding disability.
How The Valuable 500 bring about change
Among several advantages, The Valuable 500 has the benefit of influence. With 500 committed top companies comes a collective 20 million employees across 64 business sectors, leaving vital space for an overwhelmingly positive impact regarding how we think about disabilities.
The Valuable 500 works to align 500 CEOs on enacting six impactful pillars within their organizations. Three of the cornerstones focus on aspects that can change from within a company; the company’s leadership, culture, and brand. The other three pillars focus on how an organization will present its changes to the public, using research, reporting, and representation.
The global initiative highlights 13 skilled CEOs within its 500 committed organizations as co-signers to its upcoming pledges. These CEOs will work as catalysts to progress for the whole 500 community from an executive-level by establishing secure programs, setting those programs into action, and sharing their discoveries through detailed reports.
Some of the programs in place include a Sky and EY “listening tool” meant to aid in understanding between those with disabilities and the 500 and a student-focus accessible technology program led by Verizon. Sony also recently announced its pledge, influenced by The Valuable 500, to audition actors with disabilities on every new show.
How to Get Involved
The Valuable 500 has made waves in just two years since its inception and continues to lead the way for organizations everywhere. But its influence doesn’t stop at 500. The global initiative encourages any businesses and leaders interested in joining the fight for a more inclusive, more accessible world to join them.
They also offer a list of nine important ways any leader or business can contribute to the global discussion on disabilities, including:
- Increase workforce productivity by learning the right tools.
- Investing in insight from consumers with disabilities to drive innovation.
- Educating design teams on more inclusive and accessible product and service development.
The Valuable 500 website even offers free exclusive online toolkits for leaders and businesses that join their Executive Resource Hub. The Valuable 500 strives for a more accessible and inclusive world because approximately 1.3 billion people cannot continue to be ignored. But the benefits of rethinking disabilities from a global perspective results in a more accessible and inclusive world for all.