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When it comes to talking about disability, we don’t.
Nearly one in five Americans reports living with a disability, yet our silence prevents us from aiding in destigmatization, fair access and equal opportunity.
Along with major forms of social discrimination, such as denying employment to people with disabilities or using the R-word, there are seemingly little things able-bodied people do every day that aren’t so inclusive. And those little things need to change.
Here are six things you should think about in order to be a stronger ally to disability communities.
Former Pennsylvania Gov. and NOD’s Chairman Tom Ridge and CNN’s Michael Smerconish discuss President George H.W. Bush and the Americans with Disabilities Act, which celebrates its 25th Anniversary this week.
HUFFINGTON POST BLOG By CAROL GLAZER, President, National Organization on Disability
This week many are celebrating the unprecedented improvements that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has brought to the quality of life for millions of people with disabilities in the 25 years since it was signed into law on July 26, 1990. But the work of guaranteeing access to the American dream is far from over.
When it was signed into law by President George H.W. Bush amid an overwhelming show of bipartisan support, the ADA promised to enable people with disabilities access to go to school, to church, to the theater and to work. Like the Civil Rights Act on which it was modeled, the ADA viewed the exclusion of people with disabilities from civic life and the workforce as discrimination. Keeping people with disabilities from the mainstream was no longer justifiable. When President Bush signed the ADA, he noted its significance as a civil rights act, meant to “ensure that all should have the opportunity to blend fully and equally into the rich mosaic of the American mainstream.” (Click here to watch how President Bush feels about his legacy, 25 years later.)
The labor-force participation rate in the United States is at its lowest point in almost 30 years (62.9%) and a global shortage of 95 million workers within the next five years is predicted.
Yet a huge segment of the population is dramatically underemployed – people with disabilities…. Why, when there is such a growing need for workers, is this population so underutilized?
Kassandra and Nicole are twins.They have cerebral palsy and use wheelchairs to get around. They are two of more than 3,000 students who are graduating from Daytona State College this spring. It’s an accomplishment more and more people with disabilities are achieving.
In Florida, the number of graduates with disabilities has grown from 2,680 in the 2009-2010 school year to 3,681 in the 2013-2014 school year, according to data provided by the Florida College System.
The statewide trend mirrors the trend nationally, said Carol Glazer, president of the National Organization on Disability. She
believes the increase is due to the creation and constant improvement of the special education system in K-12 schools. More of these students are also graduating from high school, at only an 8 percent lower rate than students without disabilities.
On a panel discussing Kroger’s new disabled worker program, Howard Green, deputy director, corporate programs for the National Organization on Disability, told an audience at the Warehouse Education and Research Council (WERC) annual conference in Orlando last week that at one Walgreens distribution center in Connecticut, more than 50% of the workers are disabled and - get this - there are some 40 deaf fork truck drivers….
A single executive in Kroger’s mid-south or Nashville region heard about these types of program, and challenged managers in the region to see if such a program could be launched, starting with a single major distribution center in Cleveland, TN. This facility was selected in part because at times Kroger has had recruitment challenges there, moving to a high level of case picking automation to compensate for a challenging local labor pool.
The National Organization on Disability (NOD) is making a corporate connection.
Headed in a new direction of corporate services, the organization’s endeavors are supported by a $1 million lead corporate grant from the Prudential Foundation….
“We’re changing a program that’s been funded by mainly philanthropy for the past five years, in which NOD has worked with a dozen Fortune 1,000 companies and we’ve helped them to hire more people with disabilities and better support those already in the workforce,” NOD President Carol Glazer told DiversityInc.
Recent rule changes by the U.S. Labor Department require nearly 50,000 companies who do business with the federal government to create a goal of having seven percent of their workforce comprised of people with disabilities, according to Glazer.
“Propelled by that, we’re taking [Corporate Services] and changing it into a social enterprise,” she said.
Grant will support a new social enterprise that addresses the disability employment gap by preparing people with disabilities for specific occupations and providing additional support services
The grant, provided through The Prudential Foundation, will help cover the start-up costs for Bridges to a Better Workforce, a new social enterprise launched by NOD to help prepare job seekers with disabilities for specific occupations and provide support services to ensure their success in the workplace. NOD anticipates that Bridges to a Better Workforce will serve more than 2,000 job seekers with disabilities by 2019.
“At Prudential, we are committed to using our resources to help underserved individuals achieve financial security,” said Lata Reddy, vice president of corporate social responsibility and president of The Prudential Foundation. “This grant will help people with disabilities, including veterans, prepare for and secure the high-quality job opportunities they need to strengthen their long-term economic outlook.”
Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi discusses the remarkable leverage points for change as states seek to implement this legislation.
It has been almost 25 years since the Americans With Disabilities Act was signed into law. Fully 70 percent of people with disabilities were out of the workforce back then. Tragically, today, that number is exactly the same despite the fact that the majority of people with disabilities want to work. Meanwhile, during that same time period, women and minorities made important progress. So, the gap in employment between people with and without disabilities has actually increased significantly over these years.
Why? Part of it is stigma. However, a big part is that literally billions of dollars of public investments have been poured down the toilet by continued support of failed programs. Indeed, 95 percent of people with disabilities who have gone on government benefits never got off them.
Trying to land a good job in New York City is tough for anyone. But if you have a disability, the challenges pile on. As part of WFUV’s Strike a Chord campaign on accessibility, Rob Palazzolo looks at what it takes to give everyone a shot at a career.
Annette Feliciano works at the Shake Shack in Battery Park City, and she is a dedicated worker. Just after Hurricane Sandy hit, the Shake Shack still had power—and somehow, she got there to start her shift. Of course, she acted like it was no big deal.
“It’s rough, but we made it.” said Feliciano. “We get there to work.”
Feliciano got her job through Jobpath, and organization that helps people with developmental disabilities find work. Ryan Finger was her case manager.
“I got to work with Annette for several months before the job search began, and during that time I got to know her as someone who has a really strong work ethic, who wants to have a job where she’s appreciated, where she can be kept busy,” said Finger.
Carol Glazer is the head of the National Organization on Disability. They have helped companies like Lowe’s home improvement stores hire up to 150 people with disabilities. And Glazer said these individuals have a lot to contribute to the workplace.