This week, the National Organization on Disability and a coalition of 13 allied disability organizations met with the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) in a unique discussion about our shared agenda in disability employment. NOD Chairman Gov. Tom Ridge and National Council on Disability Chairman Neil Romano briefed DOL Secretary Alexander Acosta on the coalition members’ key priorities to advance integrated and competitive employment for the disability community.
The 13 members of the coalition are: American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD), Autism Speaks, The Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN), Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD), The Bazelon Center, Disability:IN, National Association of the Deaf (NAD), Judy Heumann, National Council on Independent Living (NCIL), National Council on Disability (NCD), National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS), National Federation of the Blind (NFB), and the National Organization on Disability (NOD). We all share the goal of increasing access among all people with disabilities to competitive integrated jobs.
The coalition members extend gratitude to Secretary Acosta and the Department of Labor for a productive meeting. Secretary Acosta asked great questions and showed interest in advancing our shared goals. We look forward to a continued partnership with DOL throughout 2019 and beyond.
Why It Matters: Competing interests are not always intractable. Here’s a four-step plan to breaking the gridlock in your work.
Dylan Walsh, Dec 13, 2018 | The National Organization on Disability worked hard to pass the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. Businesses often resisted, fighting to limit its reach. “Many businesses were saying ‘This is going to cost me so much money, there’s so much red tape,’” Jason Jay, a senior lecturer at MIT Sloan, said in a recent TedX talk. “They were focused on what they had to lose.”
So in recent years members of the National Organization on Disability have adopted a new approach to achieving new goals. They’ve worked to help the business community understand that the organization isn’t there to force tradeoffs that increase cost. Rather, the organization’s members are there to help business leaders recruit from a pool of employees that you’ve never had access to, and, that way, strengthen their businesses business. The results — and progress — have been immediate.
“If I’m asking you to give up something valuable, there’s no deal,” said Jay, the co-author of 2017’s “Breaking Through Gridlock: The Power of Conversation in a Polarized World” and the director of the MIT Sloan Sustainability Initiative. “But if I instead listen for what you value and take that seriously, then together we’ll be able to generate new ideas that neither of us could have developed on our own.”
To help people and companies get past gridlock, Jay and his co-author Gabriel Grant have helped develop a process of engagement that they call “transformative contrasting.” It is as applicable to the world of organizations — where conversations and ideas often run aground on ideology — as it is to politics.
It’s about drawing a contrast between the tradeoffs they fear they’ll have to make and the new possibilities you’re there to open.
Jason Jay, Senior Lecturer, MIT
The first step is to let go of hidden, competing commitments, Jay said. While outwardly committed to moving things forward, people are often inwardly, and equally, committed to maintaining a sense of rightness, or righteousness, or certainty and safety.
Second, acknowledge what the other side values. Consider the tradeoffs that they may fear and acknowledge these.
Third, draw a contrast between what others may think you’re there to do — raise costs and red tape — and what you’re really there to do — help strengthen business.
Finally, start generating new ideas together.
In his talk, Jay explained how a director and research analyst at a Boston-based investment firm developed a socially and environmentally responsible investment package. They met predictable friction: Bosses and clients rejected the idea based on perceptions that it would diminish returns. So his friends did some contrasting. I get it, they explained, you’re worried about the tradeoff, and you should be: Past funds have sacrificed performance for social impact. But we want to both manage the risks of social and environmental disruption while harnessing the benefits of environmental technology; we plan to increase returns while investing responsibly.
This, Jay said, opened doors with both colleagues and clients.
“You’re not there asking people to let go of what they desire,” Jay said. Instead, you’re asking them to let go of their fear of the tradeoff by “drawing a contrast between the tradeoffs they fear they’ll have to make and the new possibilities you’re there to open.”
DECEMBER 1, 2018 | WASHINGTON, D.C. – Former Pennsylvania Governor and U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge worked with late President George Herbert Walker Bush before either man served in their respective executive branch. That occasion: when Ridge worked as Erie County Chairman for then-candidate Bush’s 1980 presidential campaign.
In his only on-camera interview Saturday, Ridge recalled and praised President Bush’s decades of service to the nation both in the military and in politics. Ridge also elaborated on that ‘thoughtfulness’ he said Bush displayed.
But the two would later become colleagues and close friends while working in the nation’s capital; Ridge was in Congress, and Bush in the White House as vice president to President Ronald Reagan and then later as president himself.
“President Bush’s public persona was one of grace and humility, dignity, thoughtfulness, kindness,” Ridge said. “And that was his private world, as well.”
In his only on-camera interview Saturday, Ridge recalled and praised President Bush’s decades of service to the nation both in the military and in politics. Ridge also elaborated on that ‘thoughtfulness’ he said Bush displayed. Perhaps the most personal example: in the form of a phone call Bush placed to Ridge on a busy election night in 1994 after Ridge, moments before, had been elected as governor of Pennsylvania.
“He called me that evening and he congratulated me, but he said it was a bittersweet night for him because his one son (Jeb Bush) had lost in Florida and the other son won in Texas,” Ridge said. “But he thought he would go down and be with Jeb. It’s one thing to be with the victor… but he really wanted to be with Jeb and of course Jeb won eventually. But that’s just the way he was, the relationship he had with his family.”
The governor from Texas was future President George Walker Bush, who would become Ridge’s future boss when Ridge became the first Secretary of Homeland Security in 2003.
Ridge and George H.W. Bush would cross paths once again in 2006. Ridge became the board chair for the National Organization on Disability while Bush was the honorary chair, a title he held from 1990 until his death.
Ridge interviewed Bush at the President’s Houston, Texas home in 2015 on the 25th anniversary of Bush signing the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act.
“Men and women with disabilities are sometimes the best and most effective employees (companies) have. That probably doesn’t surprise you, does it?” Ridge asked Bush in the 2015 interview.
“No,” Bush replied. “Just so they get a chance. That’s the main thing.”
The Act would aid Bush himself later in life as he battled multiple illnesses in his final years, often times utilizing a wheelchair.
“I think it’s very important, it’s something I’m very proud of… perhaps proudest of when I was President,” Bush added in the interview.
Ridge, 73, last saw Bush about a year and a half ago, he said.
Ridge plans on attending the upcoming funeral services in Washington, his way of paying his final respects to the man he calls a great and honorable leader.
“He was a special man,” Ridge said, “a great president and a good friend.”
DECEMBER 4, 2018, WASHINGTON | Sully, a now familiar service dog for former President George H.W. Bush, lay a few feet from the late president’s casket in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda.
The yellow Labrador soon will begin his next mission at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. But first, Sully and former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge on Tuesday escorted a group of disabled Americans through the Capitol to honor and highlight Bush’s work on the Americans with Disabilities Act.
“That legislation was, in his heart, one of the most important things he did as president,” Ridge said in an interview as he spoke to the group of three dozen people in Statuary Hall after paying their respects.
Former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge speaks with Adam Keys, left, a Whitehall Township native and Army veteran who now lives in Annapolis. (Laura Olson/The Morning Call)
Signed on July 26, 1990, the ADA was landmark civil rights legislation prohibiting discrimination against those with disabilities. The practical effects have included ensuring there are physical accommodations in public places, like ramps or accessible bathrooms, as well as access to interpreters or documents in braille, and protections in seeking employment.
Bush said when he enacted the law it would help disabled Americans have “independence, freedom of choice, control of their lives, the opportunity to blend fully and equally into the rich mosaic of the American mainstream.”
Ridge, who serves as board chairman for the National Organization on Disability, said it was important to Bush’s family to celebrate that part of his legacy during the events honoring the late president’s life.
“Everybody has a tendency to focus on his passion, compassion, his humanity, his decency, his integrity, and they forget some of the achievements of his presidency,” Ridge said.
So on Tuesday, Ridge took the group — veterans and nonveterans, some in wheelchairs — into the Rotunda, with Sully as their chaperone. Among the group was Adam Keys, a Whitehall Township native and Army veteran.
#Sully, former President George H.W. Bush’s service dog looks up at former Homeland Security Sec. Tom Ridge during visit to the Capitol Rotunda Tuesday morning. pic.twitter.com/8nQHSmRFW6
Keys, who now lives in Annapolis, Md., was injured in Afghanistan when a roadside blast rocked the armored vehicle he was traveling in. He lost both legs and his left hand in the aftermath.
He described Tuesday’s visit as “pretty profound,” saying he appreciated the opportunity to “give my salute and pay my respects” to the late president and commander in chief.
“How many times over can one person serve?” Keys said, noting Bush’s role in the military and in government.
Ridge, who also was at the Capitol Monday for a ceremony honoring Bush, told the group that Bush would have been “gratified and humbled” that they were there.
There’s more to do to build upon Bush’s efforts to help the disabled community, Ridge added. Americans still need to do a better job to recognize that disability is a human condition, and find more ways to provide access to employment, he said.
Ridge’s own ties to Bush date back to his work as a young lawyer during the 1980 presidential campaign.
Their relationship grew and evolved into a personal friendship. George W. Bush, the late president’s son, named Ridge the nation’s first director of Homeland Security.
Ridge Tuesday praised Bush as someone who treated world leaders and low-level staffers with the same level of respect and civility.
“He’s a man for whom I have a great deal of admiration and affection,” Ridge said.
December 4, 2018 – Today, the National Organization on Disability’s Chairman, Gov. Tom Ridge, spoke to CNN about former President George H.W. Bush’s legacy of supporting the rights of people with disabilities.
John Berman, host of New Day, the network’s flagship morning program, replayed a conversation from 2015 between Gov. Ridge and President Bush, who graciously served as NOD’s Honorary Chairman for over twenty years, celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The Americans with Disabilities Act “might’ve been the thing of which [George H.W. Bush] was most proud of, because he elevated the rights of people with disabilities,” says Tom Ridge, former Pennsylvania governor and former Homeland Security secretary https://t.co/yDXaMrecZVpic.twitter.com/ZdQ4DFdQHL
In that commemorative interview, President Bush remarked that signing the historic civil right legislation was “something I’m very proud of, perhaps proudest of when I was president.”
Gov. Ridge recalled how his historic speech upon signing the act into law, urged the business community to take advantage of “untapped human potential” by hiring those with disabilities.
President Bush remarked, “I think people have a wrong impression sometimes. They see disability, and they think that person with disability is less able to do this job. That’s not fair and that’s not right.”
In commenting on Bush’s “historic contributions”, Ridge recounted to Berman how the former president’s deft political touch allowed him to garner bi-partisan support for the ADA, which went on to forever change the lives of millions of Americans with disabilities.
In a personal statement remembering his friend, Ridge said: “I mourn the passing of a great man who was beloved by a nation and respected by the world. A man guided by decency and humility. George H.W. Bush lived a life of service that few others ever have.”
On December 3, 2018, the National Organization on Disability (NOD) joins the United Nations (UN) in observing the International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD). The theme for this year focuses on “Empowering persons with disabilities and ensuring inclusiveness and equality.”
As part of this year’s commemoration, the United Nations’ Department of Management is hosting an event at its New York City headquarters to foster candid conversations and share best practices to advance disability inclusion. NOD is honored to take part in the dialogue, alongside leaders from the non-profit, philanthropic, and corporate sectors.
In addition to the anniversary event, the UN Secretary-General is releasing its first-ever flagship report, which shares evidence that disability inclusive policies further sustainable development goals and provides best practices to accelerate inclusion and accessibility.
The annual commemoration is particularly meaningful to the National Organization on Disability, which traces its history back to the UN’s International Year of Disabled Persons, when in 1981 Alan A. Reich became the first person in a wheelchair to address the UN General Assembly. At the end of that year, state representatives met in Washington D.C. and formed what became the National Organization on Disability, with Reich serving at the helm for over two decades.
Yet nearly forty years later, just 20% of Americans with disabilities are fully employed and are twice as likely to live in poverty. As such, advancing the inclusion of individuals with disabilities in society—and the labor force—must be a core component of any sustainable development effort, particularly with a rapidly aging global population. And this is why NOD’s chief mandate today is to see people with disabilities enjoy full opportunity for employment, enterprise and earnings, and that employers know how to put their talents to work.
The UN’s seminal report underscores that our global success depends, more than ever, on how well we put to use the talent and energy of every person. On this International Day of Persons with Disabilities, NOD invites you to #LookCloser at the skills, like perseverance and tenacity, which people with disabilities bring to the workplace. This awareness campaign shares the stories of the millions of Americans with disabilities at work, with a goal challenges preconception and increase job opportunities.
Over decades of public service, President George H.W. Bush’s work to improve the lives of millions of Americans with disabilities may be one of his more overlooked accomplishments.
But it may be one of the most enduring legacies of Bush’s presidency. And it’s gaining fresh attention in the wake of Bush’s passing. He died Friday at age 94.
On July 26, 1990, Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act, a law which has helped millions of people. The law prohibits discrimination against those with disabilities and helps ensure opportunities for employment. According to the Census Bureau, there are about 40 million Americans with disabilities.
“Let the shameful wall of exclusion finally come tumbling down,” Bush said when he signed the law in 1990.
“This historic act is the world’s first comprehensive declaration of equality for people with disabilities — the first,” Bush said when he signed the ADA. He also urged businesses to take advantage of “untapped human potential” by hiring those with disabilities.
In a statement issued Saturday morning, former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge said Bush’s “deft political touch resulted in civil rights legislation that forever changed the lives of millions of Americans with disabilities.”
In 2015, Bush spoke with Ridge to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the ADA. Ridge, the former homeland security director, serves as chairman of the National Organization on Disability. Ridge also served in Congress while Bush was president.
In the conversation, Ridge noted that many have called the ADA “the most extensive piece of civil rights legislation in American history.”
Bush told Ridge that signing the Americans with Disabilities Act is “something I’m very proud of, perhaps proudest of when I was president.”
The 41st president noted that the law’s passage reflected the strong support of Republicans and Democrats, who worked together to pass the measure. “If it had been just one party, it would have been less effective,” Bush said.
In the conversation with Ridge, Bush acknowledged that work remains to be done to expand employment opportunities for those with disabilities.
“I think people have a wrong impression sometimes,” Bush told Ridge in 2015. “They see disability and they think that person with disability is less able to do this job. That’s not fair and that’s not right.”
Still, Ridge said the Americans with Disabilities Act has made a profound difference in the lives of millions.
“At the end of the day, there are 40 to 50 million Americans who have far more opportunity today than they would have had without your taking the leadership on that issue,” Ridge told Bush.
Former Pennsylvania Gov. Dick Thornburgh served as U.S. Attorney General while Bush was president. In a statement Saturday, Thornburgh said he took pride in helping Bush ensure the ADA becomes law.
“It was my privilege to act as his point man on the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the most important piece of civil rights legislation of the last half century,” Thornburgh said Saturday. “The President’s personal commitment to guaranteeing equal opportunity for children and adults with disabilities reflected his compassion and dedication to the rule of law.”
Lex Frieden, a professor at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, described Bush’s importance to those with disabilities in an interview with a Houston television station in 2016.
“George Bush will be viewed by people with disabilities and their families as the Abraham Lincoln of their experience,” Frieden told KHOU.
In 2009, President Barack Obama spoke about the ADA’s importance at the signing of the United Nations Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Proclamation.
Obama said the ADA “was a formal acknowledgment that Americans with disabilities are Americans first, and they are entitled to the same rights and freedoms as everybody else: a right to belong and participate fully in the American experience; a right to dignity and respect in the workplace and beyond; the freedom to make of our lives what we will.”
Gov. Tom Ridge, who first met George H.W. Bush in 1980, when he was a Republican campaign organizer in Erie for President Bush’s first presidential bid, today issued the following statement on the passing of his dear friend:
“Michele and I mourn the passing of a great man who was beloved by a nation and respected by the world. A man guided by decency and humility. George H.W. Bush lived a life of service that few others ever have. A man who was the youngest to fly Navy jets as a teenager in World War II. Who skillfully guided the United States out of the Cold War. Whose deft political touch resulted in civil rights legislation that forever changed the lives of millions of Americans with disabilities. But most of all, President Bush adored his dear Barbara and his beautiful family. And how they adored him! George H.W. Bush was the very definition of an American life well lived. And he was a dear friend to us, which is a gift we will forever cherish.”
In April 2015, Gov. Ridge spoke with President George H.W. Bush on the occasion of the 25th Anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). You can view that video here.
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