In its short history, RespectAbility has demonstrated a strong record of action focused on systemic change and advancing the full inclusion of People with Disabilities.
During the period of 2016-2019, statements were made that caused harm. These statements resulted in conversations questioning our inclusive practices and reputation.
With the recent launch of our new strategic plan, we explicitly outlined our commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility. We created this document to be transparent and continue to be held accountable for future goals. While we acknowledge that we have not always lived up to our aspirations of inclusion, we are committed to transparency and accountability in a continual process of both learning and improvement.
Commitment to Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Accessibility
RespectAbility is committed to transformational societal and organizational changes that drive measurable improvements to access and equity. Our commitments are outlined in our publicly disclosed strategic plan: https://www.respectability.org/2021/08/strategic-plan-executive-summary.
We are against all forms of discrimination, including ableism, racism, sexism, ageism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, and prejudice of all kinds. Our work strives to be deeply inclusive of all people with disabilities and allies, with a specific emphasis on those who face intersectional barriers to equity.
We are building an organization that is intentional in hiring, providing appropriate trainings and ensuring equitable compensation.
It is important to prioritize self-advocacy and uplift the lived experiences of intersectional individuals with disabilities. The majority of our team are people with disabilities, including people who are blind, deaf, neurodiverse, use wheelchairs, are on the Autism spectrum, have learning, mental health and other disabilities. Currently 53% of RespectAbility’s board, 35% of full-time staff and 29% of senior staff members identify as being a person of color. Of the individuals hired in 2020 and 2021, 50% represent non-white communities and 86% have a disability, reflecting a cultural shift to ensure we highlight voices from the BIPOC communities. All of our team members offer significant skills and relevant experience. Additionally, 100% of the 90+ people who serve on our entertainment media consulting and/or DEIA training and speakers teams have disabilities. While our website has a more specific breakdown of our demographics, we recognize that simply providing these numbers is just a small step in the right direction: https://www.respectability.org/about-us.
Ongoing Equity & Inclusion Training:
Each of us are only experts of our own lived experience. So, we seek opportunities to learn from others. RespectAbility staff and Fellows have participated in multiple internal and external disability access and inclusion trainings, anti-racism trainings, and over the years RespectAbility has brought in numerous DEIA consultants and experts on race, LGTBQ+ status, mental health and other areas of diversity. In 2019 we hired an external DEIA consulting firm, which created internal trainings specific to our organization’s gaps of understanding. RespectAbility also pays for participants of various programs, including our Entertainment Lab and Speakers/Training Bureau, to undergo anti-racism training.
We currently are engaging other nonprofits focused on other areas of DEIA, where we train their staff and board in disability and accessibility, and they do the same for our board and staff in their issue areas. Going forward, we commit to having every full-time staff member participate in annual trainings on issues such as access, anti-ableism, anti-racism, updated lexicons, microaggressions and disability justice. Senior managers will engage in additional trainings.
Regular Evaluations of Equity in Compensation:
The Board conducted comparison studies and brought in Mercer to conduct a benchmark study. Although the study found no discrepancies among our salaries, we increased salaries especially for junior staff levels to ensure we were paying more livable wages across job levels. We also ensured that we were consistent in our salary ranges across all demographics and they align with job functions. In 2021, formal salary bands were created for different job levels (Fellow, coordinator, associate, manager/senior associate, director, VP, CEO) and we continue to monitor compensation against established benchmarks.
Every position posted since 2020 includes salary bands, adding a level of transparency that historically helps ensure pay equity for women, nonbinary individuals and people of color. In addition, since only seven percent of people born with a disability graduate college, a bachelor’s degree is not, nor does it need to be, a requirement for the majority of our positions and pipeline programs. This helps ensure equity for disabled individuals who have had less access to higher educational opportunities.
2) Organizational Culture
We commit to creating ongoing systemic changes that ensure all members of RespectAbility’s staff, board and leadership programs feel welcomed to bring their full selves. We will hold ourselves accountable through regular anonymous surveys of our team. A new DEIA committee has been formed, comprised of board and staff members of all levels to measure and continue progress.
To measure changes in organizational culture, RespectAbility conducts regular internal surveys. In a very recent survey, staff members scored the accuracy of various statements from a scale of 0 to 100. Below, please find the average scores:
88 / 100: I would recommend RespectAbility as a place to work/volunteer.
82 / 100: I’m comfortable sharing potentially unpopular opinions at RespectAbility.
87 / 100: RespectAbility demonstrates a genuine commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.
88 / 100: I have the confidence in RespectAbility’s senior management and staff to run the organization effectively.
91 / 100: RespectAbility cares about people like me.
91 / 100: I am proud to be a part of RespectAbility’s team.
87 / 100: RespectAbility demonstrates a genuine commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.
For these surveys and additional work, we worked with external DEIA consultants. We also implemented a confidential reporting mechanism so concerns could be properly addressed and inform further progress.
In our ongoing employee engagement surveys, 100% of our staff feel that their disability accommodations are being met. This is higher than other employers, according to a Mercer study. All staff and Fellows have opportunities for a flexible work schedule and mental health days in addition to necessary technology for full workplace inclusion. RespectAbility has even paid for out-of-network therapists so staff members have a therapist that meets and understands their needs and intersectional identities and backgrounds. RespectAbility also offers its staff five floating holidays, in addition to vacation days and sick time, so people who celebrate different religious, cultural or other holidays can have the time to do so.
3) Advocating for Full Inclusion Across Intersectional Communities
RespectAbility regularly centers people with disabilities with a specific focus on intersectional identities. With every program, we seek to understand individuals’ unique barriers and expand how to serve all communities.
One recent example is our advocacy for food delivery during the COVID pandemic. At the beginning of the pandemic, RespectAbility organized a series of Zoom Town Hall Meetings tailored to people with various disabilities to provide a gathering space for information sharing, peer support and solace. Through these community convenings, we learned from a group of blind women of color, serving as advocates for the larger disability community, who voiced the concern that many individuals with disabilities across the country were struggling with food insecurity but could not use SNAP benefits online to secure food. Recognizing the danger of a vulnerable community being forced to break social distance to buy food, RespectAbility shifted focus to advocate on local, state and national levels. Today, thanks to collaboration between RespectAbility and other partners, more than 10 million people with disabilities in 46 states no longer must choose between catching a deadly virus or going hungry because they have the option of home food delivery.
To date, we have consulted on nearly 300 television episodes and films, advising major entertainment studios on how to portray disability accurately and intersectionally. This enabled us to not only expand the entertainment & news media team but also hire a group of 30+ entertainment media consultants, comprised mainly of disabled writers who seek out these opportunities in between other jobs. 100% are disabled entertainment industry professionals while 70% are women or nonbinary and 52% are people of color. Consultants are matched with projects not only by lived disability experience but also on cultural sensitivities. RespectAbility team members also sit on the CAA Full Story Initiative Advisory Council, Disney+ Content Advisory Council, MTV Entertainment Group Culture Code and Sundance Institute’s Allied Organization Initiative. These collaborations allow us to ensure that the disability lens is added to larger existing DEIA conversations that previously focused solely on race and gender.
In addition, we place a high emphasis on building the talent pipeline. Our National Leadership Program has been training leaders committed to disability issues since the beginning of RespectAbility. Graduates go into careers in public policy, advocacy, communications, diversity, equity and inclusion, fundraising, nonprofit management or faith-based inclusion. Of the 229 graduates, 77 responded to our survey. 83% of those have found competitive integrated employment and many have pursued advanced degrees since finishing the Fellowship. Of the graduates responding, 90% identify as disabled while the others are strong allies. From our records, 46% are people of color, 62% are women or nonbinary, and 22% identify as LGBTQ+. Graduates currently work at U.S. Department of Education, U.S. Department of Labor Office of Disability Employment, Federal Elections Commission, numerous disability organizations, Axelon Services and more.
Appendix: Staff, Board and Fellows Demographics
|Organization Level + number||People of Color||White||Disability||LGBTQIA+||Female and Non-Binary||Male|
|Senior Staff (7)||29%||71%||86%||0%||57%||43%|
|Fellows (229 alumni)||46%||54%||90%||22%||62%||38%|