ADA Anniversary Reminds Us There’s Much Work Still To Do

If you are fortunate enough to work in the disability field, the end of July is a special time of year. It’s when we all come together to celebrate the anniversary of the ADA – the Americans with Disabilities Act – groundbreaking civil rights legislation that opened the doors of possibility and opportunity for millions of Americans with disabilities. The door is certainly open farther today – but there’s much work to do.

What I had not realized when I first joined the National Organization on Disability 11 years ago was that the ADA anniversary was a particularly big deal here. Our honorary chairman is President George H.W. Bush, who signed the ADA into law on July 26, 1990. If you haven’t had a chance to watch the interview of President Bush, expertly conducted by our Chairman Tom Ridge in 2015 on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the ADA, please do so now. I’ll pause for you to click and watch and then return here. I don’t mind waiting!

We are so fortunate to have these two patriots and gentlemen leading NOD. What’s worthy of note about this year’s ADA anniversary is that it falls on our anniversary. The National Organization on Disability turns 35 this year. NOD built our programs and our reputation in the 1980s, as the nationwide call for a new civil rights law to ensure the full equality of Americans with disabilities began to gain momentum. Disability organizations joined in a campaign for a new disability law – which later would become the ADA. NOD enlisted prominent business leaders to help make the case that hiring people with disabilities is good for business. The CEO Council, founded in 1992 under the chairmanship of BusinessWeek President and NOD Board Member Jack Patten, sponsored a series of conferences across the country to acquaint the business community with ADA requirements. Renamed in 2016, the NOD Corporate Leadership Council is still working actively in corporate America, and includes corporate leaders such as Prudential Financial, Coca-Cola, and Kaiser Permanente.

So it’s easy to see why the ADA is part of our DNA. So, too, is research to support public policy. For many years, Washington policy-makers would rely on our Harris Surveys, conducted like clockwork every four years, examining the gaps that existed between people living with and without disabilities. These surveys measured everything from access to transportation and education to daily quality of life indicators. NOD was proud to be the source of that trusted information that helped shape legislation, including the ADA.

Thirty-five years later, NOD continues to provide those necessary insights, but in a way that is even more closely connected with the #1 challenge facing people with disabilities: employment. Just recently we released the results of the 2017 Disability Employment Tracker™. The Tracker is a free and confidential annual survey measuring companies’ disability inclusion policies and practices to discover how businesses are progressing in their disability inclusion journey. We were thrilled that this year more than 175 companies participated. Together, they employ over 2.4 million workers – so the Tracker really gives us some valuable, real-time data on how well (or not so well) companies are doing right now hiring people with disabilities.

The Tracker tells us certain industries are outperforming others in adopting disability including best practices. For instance, the pharma/biotech (69%) and transportation/utilities (68%) sectors’ overall adoption rates are outpacing manufacturers (56%) and consumer products and retail (46%). What we also know is that progress is slow. Too slow. The most important disability inclusion driver is getting and keeping talent. Yet on average, the workforce representation of people with disabilities is below target across all companies at just 3.2%. The U.S. Labor Department has set a 7% target for companies that do business with Uncle Sam.

The day President Bush signed the ADA on the lawn of the White House 27 years ago, he said companies hold the key to unlocking the true potential of the ADA. We are proud to partner with companies who understand that people with disabilities are often their best workers, the ones who imagine, persevere, overcome challenges and exceed expectations. Yet strangely, major segments of corporate America continue to overlook a pool of available employees who excel in just these ways. People with disabilities spend our lives ignoring discouragement, persisting through setback, solving problems and finding creative routes around obstacles. We are a rich supply of talent, ready to be tapped, at a time when talent is at a premium.

So while this is a time of year to celebrate, it’s also a time for a gut check. We need to do better. And those dark clouds on the horizon that foreshadow massive cuts to Medicaid are not helping. Such cuts would have enormously negative impacts to employment for people with disabilities, who rely on Medicaid for transportation and other critical employment services. Let’s take time to celebrate the ADA anniversary while doubling down on our efforts to unlock that potential. I assure you that my colleagues at NOD are standing by eager to help.

Americans with Disabilities Still Can’t Land Jobs

July 26, 2017, 6:00 AM By Aimee Picchi

Before the Americans with Disabilities Act, the country was a very different place for people with disabilities, who had to navigate hurdles such as inaccessible public buildings. Yet when it comes to the workforce, the hurdles may not look much different than they did 27 years ago.

The share of adults with disabilities who are working by some measures hasn’t improved since the ADA was passed in July 1990. When the law was signed, about half of disabled Americans were employed, a share that declined to 41 percent by 2010, according to Census data.

Ironically, some economists suggest the ADA may have made it less likely for employers to hire people with disabilities because of the costs they might incur for providing accommodations. Yet disability advocates point out that Americans with disabilities face a host of complex issues such as stigmas, typically lower education rates and higher rates of poverty, which add to the difficulties of finding a job while disabled.

“My organization has been collecting data on disability going back to the mid-1980s when we did our first so-called gap survey, which reports on quality of life for people with and without disabilities and looks at the gaps,” said Carol Glazer, president of the National Organization on Disability. “A number of gaps have been closing. Unemployment, unfortunately, is one thing that hasn’t improved appreciably since we started measuring.”

The ADA was a civil rights law that improved physical access to schools, public spaces and other buildings, while also guaranteeing legal protections, noted Philip Kahn-Pauli, the policy and practices director of RespectAbility, a nonprofit that works to advance opportunities for people with disabilities.

He added, “What the law did not do was to remove attitudinal barriers. You can make explicit discrimination illegal, but you can’t change people’s hearts and minds.”

Unconscious bias may play a role, as Rutgers University researchers found in a field experiment when they sent out job applications for more than 6,000 fictional accounting positions. Two-thirds of the applicants disclosed their disabilities – a spinal cord injury or Asperger’s Syndrome – in their cover letters, while one-third didn’t mention a disability. While those disabilities wouldn’t interfere with the accounting work and the applicants were otherwise equally qualified, the applicants with disabilities received 26 percent fewer responses from employers.

Aside from lower employment rates, workers with disabilities also typically earn less, which Kahn-Pauli noted is linked to educational attainment for disabled people. About 16 percent of adults with a disability have earned a college degree, or roughly half the rate of those without disabilities. Higher education levels are linked with higher earnings.

“Despite significant improvements in the access to education, people with disabilities still face barriers to receiving the quality education that they need to succeed in the workforce,” Kahn-Pauli said. “Nationally, only 65 percent of students with disabilities graduate high school each year compared to 86 percent of student without disabilities.”

When it comes to the workforce, pushes for greater diversity often overlook disabilities. Part of the issue may be stigma, but another factor is the complexity of disability, which can range from cognitive and mental disabilities to physical disabilities.

Businesses “think about race, gender and sexual orientation/identity,” Kahn-Pauli pointed out. “They do not think about disability. What they may not recognize is that disability is a natural part of the human experience and cuts across other barriers that divide us.”

The aging of America’s workforce may push the issue into the forefront: About one out of three Americans age 65 to 69 have a disability, compared with one out of 10 for people 25 to 44.

Already, those trends are noticeable, with the ranks of people with disabilities increasing by 2.2 million people between 2005 to 2015, or a rise of about 4 percent, the Census found.

Geography is yet another component, with higher disability rates found among less-educated adults in the Midwest and South, according to research from Brookings Institution fellow Martha Ross. Almost four out of 10 prime-age workers without a college degree report some level of disability in Johnson County, Kansas, the greatest share of any of the 130 large U.S. cities and counties she examined.

Many of those locations with high disability rates among the less educated are also dealing with aging workforces, as well as fewer economic opportunities.

The links among education, age, poverty and disability can be complex. Economists such as Princeton University’s Angus Deaton and Anne Case are probing whether a lack of good jobs for middle-aged, less-educated white Americans is leading to lower economic and social well being, as well as higher death rates, which they call “deaths of despair.”

“There’s plausible story here, in a context of decreased demand for workers with less than a bachelor’s degree,” Brooking’s Ross said. “Health problems and the ‘deaths of despair’ that Case and Deaton talk about are increasing because of a lack of ability to find family support and work. That has cascading effects.”

Older workers who develop disabilities may experience different outcomes in the labor market depending on their education attainment and whether their jobs will accommodate them. Some companies are designing programs to reach out to workers with disabilities, such as accounting firm Ernst & Young, which has a disability network and inclusiveness program, Glazer said.

As Kahn-Pauli noted: “We are the only minority group that anyone can join at any time due to accident, illness or aging.”

Read on CBS Moneywatch

New Analysis of U.S. Employers Reveals Five Common Attributes of Companies that Excel in Welcoming People with Disabilities into Workforce

MORE THAN 175 COMPANIES EMPLOYING 2.4 MILLION WORKERS SURVEYED BY NATIONAL ORGANIZATION ON DISABILITY

NEW YORK (July 24) – As the nation prepares to recognize the anniversary of the groundbreaking Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) the National Organization on Disability (NOD) today released results of the 2017 Disability Employment Tracker™ which provides rarely seen insights into the employment practices of U.S. employers. The Tracker, which measured practices and outcomes of more than 175 companies that together employ 2.4 million American workers, reveals that companies with a higher than average representation of people with disabilities (4% or greater) share five key inclusion practices in common. Those employers that have struggled to hire people with disabilities and are missing out on a huge and talented labor pool, can implement these best practices for better results.

“For American business, the quest for talent – the most gifted, the most driven, the most committed – has become the defining challenge of the 21st century,” said NOD President Carol Glazer. “Yet 27 years removed from the passage of the ADA barely one-fifth of people with disabilities have found a job. Something is wrong. A critical connection is being missed – at enormous cost in individual lives, in productivity and in the corporate bottom line. But this new survey data provides tangible actions; as it reveals the practices common to companies that have successfully tapped into this rich talent pool—and these progressive businesses are benefitting greatly as a result.”

Glazer said hiring people with disabilities can have unique benefits for employers. People with disabilities spend their lives ignoring discouragement, persisting through setbacks, solving problems, and finding creative routes around obstacles. They are a rich supply of talent, ready to be tapped, at a time when talent is at a premium.

The successful practices revealed by NOD’s 2017 Disability Employment Tracker include:
Companies with a higher than average representation of people with disabilities (> 4%) share these practices. Strategy & Metrics: Senior leaders discuss/publicly promote overall diversity; Plan for improving disability inclusion practices; Diversity champion accountable to drive disability strategy. Culture & Climate: Employee/business resource groups or affinity groups; Disability-specific employee/business resource group with annual budget. Talent Sourcing: Recruiters know how to find accommodation process. People Practices: Post-offer and pre-employment, new hires asked if accommodation needed. Workplace & Technology: Universal design principles applied in new facility buildouts.

  1. Strategy & Metrics. Senior leaders discuss and publicly promote overall diversity. Further, they have a plan of action for improving disability inclusion practices that is driven by a disability champion who is accountable to advance this strategy.
  2. Climate & Culture. Priority is given to creating employee/business resource or affinity groups that are specific to disability. Most critically, those groups have annual budgets that allow them to take visible and impactful action.
  3. Recruiter Training. Recruiters, who are on the front line with job candidates, are trained in, and know how to find and use the company’s accommodation process. This helps ensure candidates gain access to the supports needed to be a successful candidate and land the job.
  4. People Practices. HR teams are trained to proactively ask new hires if they need an accommodation in the post-offer and pre-employment stages. This improves the employee experience and ensures that there are no gaps in providing support to employees with disabilities from day one.
  5. Workplace & Technology. As new facilities are built, universal design principles – a set of design guidelines that ensure the physical workplace works well for people of every ability – are routinely applied.

“The employers who do hire from this pool consistently rank employees with disabilities among their best, most dedicated workers, with some of the lowest rates of turnover,” added Glazer. “Furthermore, research has shown that the vast majority of consumers prefer to buy from companies who hire people with disabilities, and Americans with disabilities and their friends and families constitute a huge and growing consumer segment with over $3.9 trillion in disposable income.”

ADVANCE YOUR WORKFORCE

Haven’t taken the Tracker yet? Sign up today. Access extensive benchmarking and leading practices customized to your business goals with the Disability Inclusion Accelerator.

The Disability Employment Tracker™ was developed in partnership with The National Business and Disability Council at The Viscardi Center and Mercer-Sirota.

Five Questions with Michele Meyer-Shipp of Prudential Financial

Michele C. Meyer-Shipp, Esq. is a diversity leader, who has built a track record of success by using D&I strategies to drive business results at Prudential Financial. As vice president and chief diversity officer, Michele is responsible for leading and directing all diversity initiatives for Prudential and ensuring ongoing compliance with federal and state equal employment opportunity/affirmative action laws. And, as a person with a disability and parent to a child with a disability, Michele is working hard to promote disability inclusion in the workforce, including serving on the National Organization on Disability’s (NOD) Board of Directors.

The National Organization on Disability recently sat down with Michele to find out what drives her passion for workplace inclusion—and learn more about her strategies for success.

1. What led you to choose a career in diversity inclusion?

I began my career as an attorney, specializing in employment and labor issues, and was later appointed to serve as the lead equal employment opportunity and affirmative action officer for the State of New Jersey by its then governor. So, when this job as Chief Diversity Officer became available, it was a natural fit for me. I have a passion for equality in all shapes and forms, am an advocate and work tirelessly for the underserved. Working to raise awareness of workplace diversity and inclusion issues, and being a catalyst for change, has been the opportunity of a lifetime.

2. Why has Prudential made disability a central part of its inclusion efforts?

Prudential is proud to be known as a leader in the disability inclusion space. We were recently informed that Prudential’s percentage of employees who have self-identified as having a disability is above the average found in NOD’s annual corporate survey, the Disability Employment Tracker™, which we can attribute in large part to our “Count Me In” campaign. “Count Me In” is about building awareness, trust, and appreciation, and these are the same ingredients that are important to engaging our workforce in general. “Count Me In” has helped some of our employees find their voice and share their full identity in a way they had not previously done at work.

We have a disability strategy in place and have partnered with NOD on a Disability Inclusion Accelerator™ briefing, which allowed us to go deeper in our benchmarking, assess progress against our plans, and identify new actions we need to incorporate into our future plans. Prudential is deeply committed to this work, and we are not resting on our success – we are looking to raise the bar even higher.

3. What elements of your strategy have been most instrumental in building a culture of inclusion at Prudential?

We have done a lot to communicate our commitment to disability inclusion – our ADAPT Business Resource Group is very active and has held numerous events to create awareness about disability in the workplace.

We track a wide-array of metrics that help us tell an evidenced-based story – we have built the business case and secured the commitment and investment needed to make change across the organization.

Also, I believe that the engagement of multiple leaders in this journey has been extremely instrumental in building a culture of inclusion at Prudential. This includes both senior business leaders and partners across corporate HR (Staffing, Employee Relations, Learning and Development and Health & Wellness to name a few). We have been able to bring these partners to the table to help us improve our ability to provide accommodations – and they all recognize the business case for creating an inclusive environment that allows Prudential to attract and retain the best talent.

4. What are you most proud of regarding your efforts at Prudential and elsewhere?

One of the things I am most proud of is the executive level support we’ve gotten for D&I efforts across the company. The high level of real-time commitment to the work of D&I by our senior leaders and corporate partners is extraordinary. They understand that D&I is not merely the work of the D&I professional, but the work of ALL. We have a terrific team of dedicated people working to drive inclusion and diversity and are making progress.

I am also proud of external recognition that Prudential has received for its diversity and inclusion efforts. While it is evidence of our commitment and progress, it is not why we do it. We do it to attract, hire and retain the best talent and to create a fair and inclusive work environment.

5. What drew you to want to serve on the board of the National Organization on Disability?

As a leader and change agent, it was a chance to advocate for those in need. Being on the board is an opportunity to lend my knowledge, skills and experience to help create awareness and more opportunities in terms of recruiting, retaining and providing an inclusive work environment for people with disabilities.

As a person with a disability, and the mom of a son with a disability, it is personally meaningful for me to support this community.

Learn more about Michele Meyer-Shipp and Prudential Financial.