Tom Ridge: Trump Cuts to Disability Programs ‘Unjust,’ ‘Foolish’ Read Newsmax: Tom Ridge: Tens of Millions of Dollars in Trump Cuts to Disability Programs

By Solange Reyner | Wednesday, 17 April 2019 08:08 PM

Close up shot o Gov. Tom Ridge
Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

Former GOP Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge called President Donald Trump’s proposed cuts to a number of disability programs supporting people with disabilities “not only unjust but also fiscally foolish.”

Ridge, who currently serves as the chairman of the National Organization on Disability, said in an op-ed for The New York Times that Trump’s proposed 2020 budget would cut tens of millions of dollars in programs for people with disabilities.

“Of particular urgency to me and many of my colleagues are the devastating impacts that the weakening of these agencies would have on job seekers with disabilities,” Ridge wrote.

“Independent living centers, assistive-technology programs, supports for individuals living with brain injuries and family caregiver support services are among those programs and services on the chopping block. So, too, is the Office of Disability Employment Policy,” he added.

Trump’s proposal includes cuts to domestic spending and an increase in money for a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico.

A Labor Department office that promotes the hiring of people with disabilities is also proposed for cutbacks.

“Combined, these cuts total in the tens of millions of dollars,” Ridge wrote. “Cutting funding to these critical programs — that turn tax consumers into taxpayers — is not only unjust but also fiscally foolish.”

Read on Newsmax

Tom Ridge, Former GOP Governor of Pennsylvania, Takes Aim at Trump Cuts to Disabilities Programs

Former Pennsylvania governor Tom Ridge
Former Pennsylvania governor Tom Ridge appears in Harrisburg, Pa., in January 2015 (Matt Rourke/Associated Press)

April 17, 2019 | By John Wagner

Tom Ridge, the former Republican governor of Pennsylvania and the nation’s first homeland security secretary, criticized the Trump administration on Wednesday for proposed budget cuts to an array of programs supporting people with disabilities.

Ridge, who now serves as chairman of the National Organization on Disability, called the proposed cuts “not only unjust but also fiscally foolish” in an op-ed published by the New York Times.

His criticism comes in the wake of a high-profile reversal by President Trump last month of an administration proposal to cut federal funding for the Special Olympics. Trump said he was overruling Education Department officials in the face of bipartisan backlash.

“That reversal was welcome,” Ridge wrote. “But it was also incomplete. Most Americans do not know that the 2020 budget is still full of cuts that aim directly at many other programs that support people with disabilities.”

Among the programs that Ridge identifies as being “on the chopping block” are independent living centers, assistive-technology programs, supports for individuals living with brain injuries and family caregiver support services. A Labor Department office that promotes the hiring of people with disabilities is also proposed for cutbacks.

“Combined, these cuts total in the tens of millions of dollars,” Ridge wrote. “Cutting funding to these critical programs — that turn tax consumers into taxpayers — is not only unjust but also fiscally foolish.”

In its budget proposal, the Trump administration maintained that it is committed to federal disability programs, including those that promote greater labor force participation, but is also seeking to “reduce unnecessary administrative burdens.”

The nonprofit organization that Ridge leads says its mission is to promote the “full participation and contributions” of the roughly 56 million Americans with disabilities.

Read on The Washington Post

Trump’s Budget is Full of Cuts Aimed at People with Disabilities

Funding for the Special Olympics may have been restored, but many more important programs are still on the chopping block.

April 17, 2019 | The New York Times Op-Ed By Tom Ridge
Mr. Ridge is the chairman of the National Organization on Disability.

Gov. Ridge gesturing while speaking at a podium

Last month’s proposal from Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to cut millions of dollars in funding for Special Olympics caused a public uproar and a bipartisan backlash fierce enough to force President Trump to restore it days later. That reversal was welcome. But it was also incomplete. Most Americans do not know that the 2020 budget is still full of cuts that aim directly at many other programs that support people with disabilities.

The Trump administration’s fiscal year 2020 budget would make cuts across multiple agencies and offices that serve Americans with disabilities, stripping them of essential resources. Of particular urgency to me and many of my colleagues are the devastating impacts that the weakening of these agencies would have on job seekers with disabilities.

Independent living centers, assistive-technology programs, supports for individuals living with brain injuries and family caregiver support services are among those programs and services on the chopping block. So too is the Office of Disability Employment Policy. This office, within the Labor Department, is the only nonregulatory federal agency that promotes policies and coordinates with employers and all levels of government to increase workplace success for people with disabilities. It also holds federal contractors to account for meeting certain hiring goals.

Combined, these cuts total in the tens of millions of dollars. Cutting funding to these critical programs — that turn tax consumers into taxpayers — is not only unjust but also fiscally foolish.

That’s especially true now, at a time when our nation is seeing historically low unemployment rates and employers need to find new sources for talent.

Work is one of the most important issues affecting the some 50 million Americans with disabilities. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in 2018 that roughly 30 percent of Americans ages 16 to 64 with a disability were employed, compared with nearly 75 percent of those without a disability. The unemployment rate for job seekers with disabilities is roughly 9 percent — more than double that of the nondisabled population.

Employment for Americans with disabilities remains one of the great unfulfilled promises of the 1990 Americans With Disabilities Act. The law has improved lives in many significant ways. And while some employers have taken important steps in inclusion and hiring, most are not fully tapping that rich talent pool of 20 million people with disabilities who are ready to work.

Just recently, the National Organization on Disability, which I have been privileged to lead for 13 years, joined with 12 of the largest, most politically influential disability organizations from across the country to work on behalf of policies that support disability employment.

It’s something that really ought to have happened much sooner. But each of our organizations — the National Down Syndrome Society, the American Association of People With Disabilities, the National Federation of the Blind and many others — has been focused on its own priorities. But when we sat around a table together we realized that the issue of employment connects us all. It remains one of the most vexing challenges facing the disability community today.

Fortunately, these groups have been able to put aside our disparate agendas and find common cause. We recognized that collectively, we represent a powerful political constituency of scores of millions of people.

When this coalition of disability organizations recently met with the labor secretary, he notably didn’t ask about political affiliations. He understood, as we do, that our issue cuts across party lines. The most important social and economic issues all do.

That’s why the funding must be restored by the administration. And I hope to see bipartisan support from Congress. Budget decisions that harm people with disabilities and their families will hurt our economy and weaken us all. Any business that hasn’t figured out how to benefit from the problem-solving abilities and the tenacity of people who spend their lives navigating a world that wasn’t built for them isn’t trying hard enough. We can help them.

I agree with Senators Bob Casey and Sherrod Brown, who recently wrote to the director of the Office of Management and Budget and said that any budget proposal by any administration should reflect the goals of the A.D.A.: equal opportunity, independent living, full participation and economic self-sufficiency. The exclusion of any group of people from our economy is not only a problem for those who’ve been excluded. It’s a scourge on our democracy that touches us all.

I urge the Trump administration to immediately restore this essential funding.

Tom Ridge, a former governor of Pennsylvania and the first secretary of homeland security, is the chairman of the National Organization on Disability. 

Read on The New York Times

Roundtable Coalition Convenes to Advance Critical Issue of Employment for People with Disabilities

WASHINGTON, D.C. (APRIL 11, 2019) – Yesterday, the National Organization on Disability (NOD) convened twelve of the leading disability organizations from across the country to focus attention on the critical issue of employment for people with disabilities. Last year, the Roundtable coalition collectively identified two policy priorities to work on together: (1) phasing out 14(c) certificates, which allow employers to pay workers with disabilities sub-minimum wage; and (2) enforcing the 503-rule change for federal contractors, which sets a 7% target for disability workforce representation.

NOD Chairman, Gov. Tom Ridge, leads discussion with representatives from disability organizations
NOD Chairman, Gov. Tom Ridge, leads discussion with representatives from disability organizations

The Disability Roundtable participants have continued to meet to pursue legislative and administrative efforts to address these issues vital to ensuring meaningful employment for the 57 million Americans with disabilities. In this week’s meeting, the Roundtable participants backed the Transformation to Competitive Employment Act, sponsored by Senators Bob Casey and Chris Van Hollen and Representatives Bobby Scott and Cathy McMorris Rogers, to phase out 14(c) and provide supports for an effective transition to competitive, integrated employment. They also highlighted the work of the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs’ focused review of Section 503.

Roundtable participants gathered at a conference table
Roundtable participants gathered at a conference table

The Disability Roundtable plans to meet on at least three more occasions in 2019 to continue their collective efforts.

The Disability Roundtable coalition includes:

  • American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD)
  • Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD)
  • The Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN)
  • Autism Speaks
  • Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law
  • Disability:IN
  • DiversityInc
  • Judy Heumann
  • National Association of the Deaf (NAD)
  • National Center for Learning Disabilities
  • National Council on Disability (NCD)
  • National Council on Independent Living (NCIL)
  • National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS)
  • National Federation of the Blind (NFB)
  • National Organization on Disability (NOD)
  • Ridge Policy Group

NOD Welcomes Marriott International, Prudential Financial, The Boeing Company, Ruderman Family Foundation Executives to Distinguished Board of Directors

Four Executives Join Distinguished Group of Corporate and Civic Leaders Committed to Advancing Disability Employment

NEW YORK (APRIL 10, 2019) – The National Organization on Disability (NOD) today announced four new members to its Board of Directors. Apoorva Gandhi, Vice President, Multicultural Affairs, Marriott International; Steve Pelletier, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, U.S. Businesses, Prudential; Jenette Ramos, Senior Vice President, Manufacturing, Supply Chain & Operations, The Boeing Company; and Jay Ruderman, President, The Ruderman Family Foundation, were recently elected to the NOD Board joining 17 other civic and corporate leaders working to advance disability inclusion in the workplace.

“I am proud that this diverse group of corporate leaders chose to join the NOD Board,” said NOD Chairman, Gov. Tom Ridge. “They each bring unique talents to our Board that will allow us to continue advancing our mission of disability inclusion in the workplace. Our sole focus is finding employment opportunities for the 20 million Americans with disabilities who are ready to work.”

Apoorva Gandhi

Apoorva Gandhi is responsible for creating and executing an externally focused global strategy that builds preference and loyalty from diverse customer segments for the Marriott International portfolio of brands. He helps ensure that the company’s marketing, sales and operations consider and reflect multi-cultural markets and alliances as Marriott continues its aggressive growth throughout the world.

Gandhi has nearly 25 years of proven strategy, business process, program management and organizational change skills, leadership and delivery expertise.  He also has extensive management and delivery experience working with diverse business clients and a solid track record delivering measurable success to clients across various business disciplines.

Stephen PelletierSteve Pelletier heads up Prudential’s U.S.-based businesses comprising PGIM (the Global Investment Businesses of Prudential Financial), Prudential Retirement, Prudential Annuities, Individual Life Insurance and Group Insurance. Before he assumed his current role, Pelletier was CEO of Group Insurance and also served as president of Prudential Annuities and chairman and CEO of Prudential International Investments.

He is an advocate for workers with disabilities. He has long encouraged companies to organize internal work groups tasked with coordinating their business strategies with respect to people with disabilities and to make concrete commitments to recruit and retain people with disabilities. Prudential operates a business resource group called ADAPT — Abled and Differently Abled Partnering Together — that supports the personal and professional development of its members. ADAPT has an established intern program that has created full-time employment for people with disabilities and advises on increasing employment of people with disabilities across Prudential.

Mr. Pelletier serves on the American Council of Life Insurers board of directors, the Executive Business Cabinet for the Rutgers Institute for Ethical Leadership, and on the Perkins Board of Trustees.

Jenette RamosJenette Ramos is senior vice president of Manufacturing, Supply Chain & Operations at Boeing, the world’s largest aerospace company and leading manufacturer of commercial jetliners, defense, space and security systems, and provider of global services. Appointed in June 2017, Ramos is a member of the Boeing Executive Council.

Ms. Ramos is actively involved in the community. She is currently on the Board of Trustees for The Nature Conservancy of Washington and serves as a mentor for the Executive Development Institute.

Jay RudermanJay Ruderman heads up the Ruderman Family Foundation, which was founded by his family in the early 2000s.  Mr. Ruderman and the Foundation are advocates who focus on the inclusion of people with disabilities in all aspects of life. In addition, the Foundation has also done advocacy work around mental health issues, particularly for police and for other first responders.

The Ruderman Family Foundation has three main approaches to its mission including program development through grant-giving; advocacy; and internal programming.   Mr. Ruderman has been vocal about the role of media in our society today and the regular casting of actors without disabilities playing the role of characters with disabilities.

Learn more about the NOD Board of Directors

VIDEO: NOD Celebrates World Autism Month

It’s World Autism MonthMeet Jacob Waltuck, whose autism enables him to excel at his job. Jacob’s autism gives him a keen focus and a deep imagination that is a perfect fit for his job in the entertainment industry.

In this video, “Employing New Sources of Talent”, created by the F.B. Heron Foundation, NOD President Carol Glazer and Jacob #LookCloser at how Americans with disabilities, like him, are a valuable talent pool waiting to be tapped by hiring employers.

Take the #LightItUpBlue pledge to help create a more inclusive world for people with autism sponsored by our partners at Autism Speaks.

Robert David Hall sees more opportunities for actors with disabilities thanks to the ‘Look Closer’ campaign

Headshot of Robert David Hall
Robert David Hall played County Coroner Dr. Al Robbins for 15 seasons on “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.” He says, “I knew that I could contribute in a meaningful way, and so can 56 million Americans with disabilities.” Photo by Christopher Voelker

By Margie Barron, March 31, 2019

Fans of “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” saw actor Robert David Hall go about his job in his role as Dr. Al Robbins, the county coroner for all 15 seasons of the hit crime drama. Hall portrayed the chief medical examiner in Las Vegas as a can-do guy who walked around his crime lab on crutches conducting his autopsies.

“Some people thought the crutches were a prop that made the character more interesting,” Hall reported. “But I’ve been very open about my prosthetic legs, the result of an accident when an 18-wheeler truck crushed my car and an explosion set it on fire.” Out of such a horrific event, burn survivor Hall has carved out a fine career playing a variety of roles that reinforces the fact that disabilities shouldn’t prevent talented actors from getting casting opportunities.

‘The accident took both my legs but didn’t take away my abilities, nor my spirit or creativity.’
—Robert David Hall


Hall, who also had a nice career as a broadcaster and musician, said, “The car accident took both my legs but didn’t take away my abilities, nor my spirit or my creativity. I knew that I could contribute in a meaningful way, and so can 56 million Americans with disabilities. I see no reason why talented, hardworking people, who are viewed as ‘different’ should be kept out of the entertainment industry, or any industry for that matter.”

Hall has become an advocate and a longtime board member for NOD, the National Organization on Disability, he said, “I am proud to lend my voice to NOD’s Look Closer campaign.” NOD’s goal as a non-profit is to increase employment opportunities for the 80 percent of working age Americans with disabilities who are not employed.

Hall explained, “Harold Russell who won an Oscar in Best Years of Our Lives (1946), didn’t lose his hands in the war, he lost them in a training accident. But Harold became the first person with that kind of disability to be shown as a human being. That was a big deal.”

TV and the media are critical to get the “abilities conversation” going because they do affect change. Hall believes, “The way we show ourselves affects us. CSI is on the air more now because of syndication, and when I’m out and about people still come up to me and say ‘I love your character,’ and they see me and say, ‘oh, that wasn’t a prop.’ That’s okay because they saw a man who was very capable.”

Hall continued, “The affect on TV, film or commercials matters when you see the diversity, old and young people, different nationalities out there, and people able-bodied and less able-bodied. There are more examples now and young kids are impacted by this stuff. If they never see someone like themselves on the screen they think they’re not a part of the future. It doesn’t just affect entertainment, because I think there’s some kid out there who’s going to cure some disease. That kid could be blind or deaf or a paraplegic, but I know I want them to have opportunities and not be devalued because of their disabilities. I feel strongly about that.”

We must look to our better angels. Hall recalled, “Someone once said that we should judge our society by how well we take care of the least among us. I certainly don’t think disabled people are ‘the least among us,’ but the reality is that we have barriers to overcome and problems to solve. If someone is able to take care of themselves, that’s great. But if someone needs a boost, I’d like to do something to help. That’s why I belong to NOD, and why I’m doing this Look Closer campaign to see people for what they can do, not for what they can’t do.”

NOD wants to encourage more people with a variety of abilities to go out for auditions for all sorts of roles. Hall said, “A role as a judge is ideal. I just want it to look more real.”

Recently, TV shows that have had characters of various physical disabilities include NCIS New Orleans, Speechless, Mom, Superstore, Breaking Bad, Switched at Birth, Glee, and The CW’s upcoming In The Dark (premiering Thursday, April 4) starring Perry Mattfeld as a blind crime solver. But Mattfeld is not blind, just like other shows that have able-bodied performers playing some of those rare roles, which is limiting the opportunities for actors with disabilities.

Margie Barron is a member of the Television Critics Association and has written for a variety of top publications for more than 38 years, and was half of the husband and wife writing team of Margie and Frank Barron.

Read on The Tolucan Times

Looking Closer: Raising Expectations of People with Disabilities Helps Us All Move Forward

The Campaign for Disability Employment: Blog by Carol Glazer

March 18, 2019 | Carol Glazer is the president of the National Organization on Disability (NOD), a Campaign for Disability Employment member organization.

Carol Glazer hugging her son Jacob
Carol Glazer hugging her son Jacob

It is not unusual for waiters and waitresses to look only briefly at my son Jacob before turning to ask me what he would like to eat. With a shrug, I almost always say the same thing: Ask him.

Jacob, 26, has apparent physical and cognitive disabilities. His arms sometimes hang awkwardly, and his eyes can wander. His speech isn’t always fluid. To many, it is the appearance of someone lacking agency—someone who needs help. It’s an appearance that belies a keen sense of observation, strong personal desires and a quick wit. Jacob knows what he wants. Ask, and he’ll tell you.

When meeting him, even people who interact regularly with people with disabilities tend to speak at enhanced volumes and reduced speeds. When this happens, Jacob will ask them why, and, ironically, check that they are okay (his emotional intelligence and sense of humor have always outpaced those of others his age). These exchanges are mostly innocuous and even funny, if not a bit awkward for the would-be do-gooders. But they reveal a worrisome truth about our society.

The term “stigma” is often used in the context of discrimination. And although stigma is certainly problematic, it is not always actively pernicious. Those waiters are not avoiding Jacob to be insulting. They are trying to spare him embarrassment—and perhaps themselves some discomfort. But in doing so, they rob him of his voice and his volition. For whom is that good?

Society has certain expectations of people: expectations of education, of employment, of contributions to the common good. But, for totally outdated and cynical reasons, those expectations do not typically extend to those with disabilities, especially when it comes to work. Rather, it’s seen as a miracle that they get out of bed in the morning.

Smart people—and smart businesses—do not subscribe to this tyranny of low expectations, however. Rather, they know that including people from all walks of life, with different perspectives and experiences, is the key to success. People with disabilities are above all problem solvers; in the workplace, this translates into innovative thinking. It’s no coincidence that businesses that excel at disability inclusion—for instance, those recognized as National Organization on Disability (NOD) Leading Disability Employers™—are among the nation’s, and in fact world’s, most successful organizations.

As president of NOD, I have the privilege of working with these companies, as well as those at different points in their disability inclusion journeys. Those more towards the beginning often have the same question: What kinds of jobs can people with disabilities do?

There are more than 50 million Americans with disabilities in the United States today, constituting a remarkably diverse group that includes people with Autism, asthma and arthritis, as well as cancer, depression, dyslexia and myriad other conditions. They are black and white, young and old; they live in Brooklyn, San Francisco and Iowa City. No two people have the same talents or interests—regardless of disability status. So, what kind of jobs can people with disabilities do? Any jobs that people can do.

The frequency with which this question is asked was a significant driver for NOD in launching the Look Closer campaign, as well as joining the Campaign for Disability Employment. Through these initiatives, we are working to recast Americans with disabilities as a capable, untapped workforce, with new terminology and new archetypes. The key is sharing their stories. Some of the individuals featured in our Look Closer campaign are low-skilled, hourly workers. Others are senior managers and C-level leaders. In almost every case, the individual’s disability played either no role in their career whatsoever or created competitive advantages. It turns out, disability has very little to do with ability.

So, have people with disabilities failed to exceed the low bar set for them? Or has society failed to set the bar high enough? It’s time for us all to look closer at our beliefs, expectations, and yes, our stereotypes.

For more information about the Look Closer campaign and how individuals and employers can get involved, visit

 Read on What Can You Do? The Campaign for Disability Employmemt


NOD Chairman Tom Ridge Receives Distinguished AAPD Leadership Award for Commitment to Disability Employment

Washington, D.C.(March 13, 2019) –The American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) has recognized National Organization on Disability (NOD) Chairman Tom Ridge, the first U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security and 43rd Governor of Pennsylvania, with the AAPD Leadership Award. Gov. Ridge was honored for his many years of distinguished service on behalf of the disability community, particularly his work with NOD to raise the issue of disability employment and to find opportunities for the 20 million Americans with disabilities who are ready to work. Last evening, AAPD President and CEO Helena Berger and Ted Kennedy, Jr. presented Gov. Ridge with the award at AAPD’s annual gala, which provides an opportunity for partners and supporters, as well as business and government leaders, to convene to show their support of disability rights and inclusion for all Americans with disabilities.

Gov. Ridge standing behind a podium with arms outstretched

“We are honored to present Governor Ridge with the AAPD Leadership Award,” said Helena Berger, President & CEO of the American Association of People with Disabilities. “AAPD is recognizing him for his tireless advocacy and outstanding leadership in advancing employment opportunities for all Americans with disabilities.  We know that disability inclusion only enhances our nation’s economy and workplaces, so thank you Governor Ridge for all you have done to show how people with disabilities strengthen our workforce, communities, and country.”

Gov. Ridge became the NOD Chairman soon after his appointment by President George W. Bush as Homeland Security Advisor in 2006. Under his leadership as U.S. Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, DHS implemented an impactful program to hire people with disabilities. He also partnered with NOD’s Emergency Preparedness Initiative for the first-ever conference on Emergency Preparedness for Individuals with Disabilities. For more than a decade as NOD Chairman, the organization has adopted a strategic focus on training corporations and organizations to help hire people with disabilities in our country today.

Most recently, Governor Ridge led the charge to launch Look Closer, a national awareness campaign by NOD to encourage hiring managers to consider this diverse, capable, and largely untapped talent pool and put more Americans with disabilities to work. He also has convened a group of fifteen disability organizations from across the country, including AAPD, to focus attention on the critical issue of employment for people with disabilities.

“In accepting the AAPD Leadership Award, I stand before you to represent not only the National Organization on Disability, but also the 57 million people with disabilities in America, their family and their friends,” said Gov. Ridge. “I accept this award for all people who value humanness, fairness and democracy.

“NOD and AAPD are very close in age. For the longest time ours were the only two cross-disability organizations, and we have toiled away at our work now for nearly four decades. So we know that the ADA, its precursors, and laws that followed, have done much to change that view of disability as something to be cured.  Or feared.  Or used as a reason to exclude people from communities, from civic life and from the workforce. And in many ways our circumstances have improved.

Carol Glazer, Ted Kennedy, Jr., Tom Ridge and Helena Berger

“But make no mistake. The numbers on workforce participation have not changed appreciably since the end of WW II.  Not in the 28 years since the ADA; not in this age where technology has leveled the playing field for all of us. Not even now, in the tightest labor market in half a century.

“There is, however, a good news side to this story. In an era where rancor dominates the mood everywhere and especially in Washington, our issue cuts across party lines. It cuts across race lines, gender lines, and even class lines.  The issues of who participates in our workforce, our communities, and our society, are not partisan issues.  In an era of identity politics, our identity is the most cross cutting there is. At the end of the day, that’s power.

“The collective voice of the disability community is one that can no longer be ignored, especially if we stay together. Put aside our individual differences, pick the few issues we agree on, and join forces.”

In April and October 2018, NOD convened these disability organizations in a “Disability Employment Roundtable.” The coalition collectively identified two policy priorities to work on together: (1) eliminating “14C” certificates, which allow employers to pay workers with disabilities sub-minimum wage; and (2) to bear down on enforcing the 503-rule change for federal contractors. The groups met earlier this month in Washington to brief elected officials at the U.S. Capitol.

Luke Visconti Who Suffered a Stroke Works on Behalf on People with Disabilities

National Organization on Disability Board Vice Chair and Palm Beach resident Luke Visconti speaks in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday. By Olivia Feldman | Posted Mar 5, 2019 at 4:46 PM

One in five people in the U.S. have disabilities, making up 54 million people in the U.S. Palm Beach resident Luke Visconti advocates for this group as vice chair of the National Organization on Disability (NOD), which aims to help people with disabilities find employment.

In 1997, Visconti founded the online publication DiversityInc., which focuses on diversity and inclusion in the workplace. His life took a turn after suffering a stroke four years ago at the age of 54, leading him to gear his efforts toward working with NOD. On behalf of the organization, he took part in a meeting last week in Washington, D.C. with 12 national disability organizations and U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) to advocate for increased employment for people with disabilities.

Visconti recently spoke to the Daily News about his work with the NOD and how he has progressed since his stroke.

How long have you lived in Palm Beach?

I moved here full-time last year but had been wintering here for the past four years while living in Princeton, New Jersey.

How did you get involved with the National Organization on Disability?

I’ve known (NOD President) Carol Glazer for well over a decade. After my stroke, she got out to me quickly. NOD has been able to put all of these groups together so we can advocate for our collective best interests. Our mission is to get people to work.

What are your responsibilities as vice chair of the NOD board?

The board keeps strategic direction. We discuss initiatives and opportunities that will help people get employment, and that’s what we spend the most time on. We evaluate Carol Glazer’s performance on a regular basis.

How did your stroke happen?

I was at home in Princeton, New Jersey. I woke up having trouble walking; I felt strange. At first I brushed it off, but then I woke up my wife. I made two big mistakes: I didn’t call 911 and I had her drive me to the hospital, which was the wrong one. They misdiagnosed me and I didn’t get a tPA (tissue plasminogen activator). There was no neurologist or cardiologist on staff. Instead of sending me away, they took my insurance money and left me there. If I had been treated properly, I wouldn’t be paralyzed.

How do you function since your stroke?

I was paralyzed on my left side, and I still do rehab every day to get myself basically functional. We moved here because the cold stiffens up my affected side. I can walk, but it’s not pleasant; I have to focus on every step. I am effectively one-handed. I really would like my left hand and left arm back, it just takes work. I do Pilates once or twice a week at the Royal Poinciana Plaza.

What should readers know about people with disabilities?

People with disabilities deserve the ability to go to work. They have plenty to contribute. From a pragmatic point of view, you get the best people when you select from the widest possible pool. We can increase the country’s GDP by having people work to the best of their ability.

Read on The Palm Beach Daily News