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Why Your Next Great Hire May Never Walk Through Your Door

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BraunAbility, the world’s leading manufacturer of mobility transportation solutions, is focused on more these days than providing vehicles for those with mobility challenges. It is their third year of a major effort to help individuals with mobility disabilities join the workforce.

BraunAbility’s “Drive for Inclusion” program, started in May 2019, is a global movement to unite voices and take action for mobility inclusion, accessibility and independence for those living with mobility challenges and their caregivers.

The company isn’t just cheerleading about inclusion, it’s leading by example. BraunAbility is living the initiative by recruiting candidates with physical disabilities, and then showing other companies why doing so benefits everyone.

“BraunAbility was built on a passion to ensure those with physical disabilities have greater access to the world around us. That same passion for inclusion extends to our workplace and to all individuals,” said Staci Kroon, BraunAbility CEO. “Our ability to innovate, grow and change more lives depends on our willingness to embrace the differences that make each of us individually unique.”

The Driving Force

How is BraunAbility creating a more inclusive workplace culture in Indiana and across the country? It starts with listening.

A key element of Drive for Inclusion is The Driving Force, an online community 1,900 members strong open to anyone with a mobility challenge or anyone who cares for them. Members of the community are surveyed regularly, and the information gathered is shared on a larger platform using BraunAbility channels and social influencers to amplify the voices of this community to find solutions to mobility needs. Further, BraunAbility uses key insights to inform company decisions and to better serve this community, from recruitment opportunities to real product design.

BraunAbility pays careful attention to the feedback it gets from this dynamic online community and strives to include its input in every innovation the company brings to market.

A recent example is the new Toyota Sienna Hybrid wheelchair-accessible vehicle, which BraunAbility developed with approval from The Driving Force and mobility consultants.

A more inclusive workplace

The Driving Force doesn’t just guide product design. Their feedback also reinforces what BraunAbility already knows: workplaces need to be more accommodating to those with mobility disabilities.

In a 2021 survey, a majority of The Driving Force poll respondents agreed that businesses and organizations are not doing enough to create equal employment opportunities for those with mobility disabilities.

BraunAbility is changing that. It has been working to model better hiring of the mobility disability community for two years now with the goal of bringing aboard employees and interns with mobility challenges.

And late last year, 30 years after the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act, BraunAbility launched a mentorship program with the help of Old National Bank that matches college students with mobility challenges with mentoring professionals.

Mentor and mentee teams are formed based on compatibility and shared interests, as well as professional goals. Students gain networking skills, career guidance and professional skills, while the mentor gains a greater appreciation of the challenges the students face and the importance of building a more inclusive work culture.

That culture is even easier to foster in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. One thing the pandemic taught all employers is that virtual work is not only possible, but often effective. To the extent work-from-home becomes normalized for the workforce, there are even fewer barriers to hiring from the mobility disability community.

But whether a company’s workforce is virtual or in-person, ensuring those with mobility challenges are fairly considered as hiring candidates is the right thing to do. BraunAbility has seen firsthand what it can do for both employer and employee.

As part of its drive to change workplace cultures across the state, BraunAbility is sharing what it has learned in its commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. Here’s advice for any company interested in hiring someone with a mobility challenge:

– It takes networking — connect with the right people and programs. Once you’ve built a network in the disability community, make it aware of all your job openings. Referrals are the strongest recruiting tool in your arsenal. The same is true for building a strong referral network in the disability community.

– Set goals that are meaningful yet achievable, and then measure against them each year. BraunAbility has had success with small, incremental steps … one hire at a time.

– Strive to create a secure, honest environment that encourages candidates to be open to telling what support, if any, they might need to successfully perform their role. Be comfortable asking them.

The most important piece of advice from BraunAbility? “Our commitment has resulted in some great hires. Just do it!”

If you’re a company looking to advance diversity and inclusion by gaining insights from the mobility disability community, or visit BraunAbility.com or reach out to BraunAbility at TheDrivingForce@BraunAbility.com about opportunities to engage The Driving Force.