NOD Meets with Six U.S. Senators to Focus Attention on Increasing Employment Opportunities for Americans with Disabilities

NOD Special Assistant Charles Edouard Catherine, Sen. Toomey, and NOD Chairman Gov. Tom Ridge
NOD Special Assistant Charles Edouard Catherine, Sen. Toomey, and NOD Chairman Gov. Tom Ridge

WASHINGTON, D.C. (July 31, 2019) – Recently, the National Organization on Disability (NOD) met with a slate of U.S. Senators to focus attention on the critical issue of employment for people with disabilities. Meetings were held with Sens. Roy Blunt (R-MO), Susan Collins (R-ME), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Robert Portman (R-OH), Mitt Romney (R-UT), and Pat Toomey (R-PA).

The dialogues were led by NOD’s Chairman, Gov. Tom Ridge, and Special Assistant, Charles Edouard Catherine, who voiced support for increasing competitive, integrated employment opportunities for the 33 million working-aged Americans with disabilities. A key priority of these meetings was to raise awareness about the efforts to phase out 14(c) certificates, which allow employers to pay workers with disabilities sub-minimum wage.

Several efforts are underway to end subminimum wages, including the Transformation to Competitive Employment Act, introduced by Sens. Bob Casey (D-PA) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Reps. Bobby Scott (D-VA) and Cathy McMorris Rogers (R-WA).

“Increasing the employment of people with disabilities is a bipartisan issue and I greatly appreciate Gov. Ridge’s efforts to secure support for my Transformation to Competitive Employment Act,” Senator Casey stated. “Increasing the number of people with disabilities in competitive integrated employment will not only increase their economic self-sufficiency, it will also make our labor force stronger.”

With the unemployment rate at historically low levels and companies eager for talent, the time is right to ensure Americans with disabilities have a full and equal chance to participate in the workforce.

NOD, along with many allied disability organizations, will continue to pursue legislative and administrative efforts that address the vital issue of ensuring meaningful employment for the disability community.

From left: Charles, Sen. Romney and Gov. Ridge
NOD Special Assistant Charles Edouard Catherine, Sen. Romney, and NOD Chairman Gov. Tom Ridge
From left: Charles. Sen. Collins and Gov. Ridge
NOD Special Assistant Charles Edouard Catherine, Sen. Collins, and NOD Chairman Gov. Tom Ridge

NOD Statement on the 29th Anniversary of the ADA

The National Organization on Disability was in its eighth year when the Americans With Disabilities Act became law in July 1990. The ADA gave new impetus to the disability movement and a fresh public awareness of the critical issue of the employment of people with disabilities. NOD has made that issue our singular focus.

When he signed the ADA into law, President George H.W. Bush delivered a purposeful message to corporate America saying, “You have in your hands the key to the success of this Act, for you can unlock a splendid resource of untapped human potential that, when freed, will enrich us all.”


This is the first time the nation celebrates an ADA anniversary without its original champion, President Bush, who we were proud to call NOD’s Honorary Chairman until his passing last November. We pause to remember and honor his remarkable legacy.

President Bush considers the ADA one of his crowning achievements, yet as he shared with our Chairman Tom Ridge in 2015, the ADA requires employers to give people with disabilities a chance. With few exceptions, U.S. employers are still not hiring larger numbers of people with disabilities than they did in 1990. We have yet to unlock that potential President Bush spoke of when signing the ADA 29 years ago.

At NOD, we envision a future where employers will be rewarded by the high productivity, problem-solving abilities and diversity of thinking that people with disabilities bring to the workforce. On the day we commemorate the ADA, we are reminded of the reason we were created: To see to it that no ability is wasted, and that everyone has a full and equal chance to play a part in our national progress.

George H.W. Bush wanted more for people with disabilities

President George H.W. Bush signs the Americans with Disabilities Act on July 26, 1990.
President George H.W. Bush signs the Americans with Disabilities Act on July 26, 1990.

OPINION | By Tom Ridge July 23, 2019

When commemorative events are held this week to recognize the anniversary of the ADA — the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act — it will be the first such anniversary without the man arguably most responsible for its existence. The nation lost President George H.W. Bush last November. As vice president under Ronald Reagan, and later as president, he personally championed and eventually signed the ADA into law in July 1990. Later in life, when President Bush used a wheelchair himself, he considered the civil rights legislation among his greatest accomplishments. I know this because he told me, when the two of us spoke in his Houston office for a video created to mark the law’s 25th anniversary in 2015.

Think of it. A man who was among the youngest to fly Navy fighter jets in World War II and who skillfully guided the United States out of the Cold War — among countless other accomplishments during a remarkable career of public service — recognized the significance of the ADA for its lasting impact and reach and considered it one of his crowning achievements. Lex Frieden, who at the time of the ADA’s passage was the director of the National Council on Disability and arguably equally as responsible for the ADA as President Bush said, “George Bush will be viewed by people with disabilities and their families as the Abraham Lincoln of their experience.”

I’m not sure Congress could pass legislation like the ADA today. It required strong bipartisan work — with lawmakers reaching across party lines to find compromise — and was passed by strong majorities in both parties. As a congressman at the time from northwest Pennsylvania, I was proud to be among them.

But as Frieden would explain in interviews over the years, the legislation got its start thanks to a commitment George Bush made as vice president to help if he ever found himself in a position to do so. He certainly delivered.

Yet President Bush shared with me his personal disappointment that the ADA has not fully delivered on all it promised. When he stood on the South Lawn of the White House on July 26, 1990, moments before putting pen to paper, President Bush delivered a purposeful message to corporate America. He told the business community, “You have in your hands the key to the success of this Act, for you can unlock a splendid resource of untapped human potential that, when freed, will enrich us all.”

He reminded the business community that they themselves had called for new sources of workers, and encouraged them to hire people with disabilities to fill those needs, as they would “bring diversity, loyalty, and only one request: the chance to prove themselves.”

Sound familiar? Nearly 30 years later, we find ourselves at near full employment, and employers large and small are scrambling to find sources of talent. But despite record low unemployment, a survey of nearly 200 companies that collectively employ more than 9.5 million people reveals that, with few exceptions, U.S. employers are still not hiring larger numbers of people with disabilities than they did in 1990. We have yet to unlock that potential President Bush spoke of when signing the ADA.

A closer look at those survey results, released in late May by the National Organization on Disability, provides some clues. While 98 percent of companies report that overall diversity — in categories such as gender, race and sexual orientation — is promoted publicly by a senior leader, that number falls precipitously to 76 percent for disability. Nearly 9 in 10 companies maintain employee resource groups focused on diversity, while only 64 percent have similar ERGs for disability. And when it comes to hiring, barely half focus on campus recruiting for students with disabilities and only 42 percent create internships for that same population. The various approaches to hiring people with disabilities all fall to the bottom of the list, despite how frequently we hear that hiring is their biggest goal.

So while we are seeing more employers embracing the notion that they cannot afford to miss out on quality talent — as President Bush implored — these ideas are not translating into hiring numbers for people with disabilities. Many employers either have not made it a priority or simply have not been able to figure it out.

Until they do, the ADA will not fully have been realized. That is why the National Organization on Disability is convening regular meetings with a dozen of the leading disability groups across the country, bringing our powerful resources together to find meaningful solutions. We must continue to work as partners with the business community, as well as hold federal contractors accountable for meeting reasonable hiring goals.

This is not about charity. Businesses that prioritize hiring people with disabilities report the positive impacts to culture and the bottom line. There are 20 million Americans with disabilities who are ready to work — who are ready to bring their ingenuity, tenacity and creativity to the workforce. To honor President Bush’s legacy, let’s make sure when we celebrate the ADA’s 30th anniversary this time next year that we’ve moved closer to realizing his vision.

Ridge, the 43 rd governor of Pennsylvania and first U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security, is chairman of the National Organization on Disability. 

Read on The Houston Chronicle

Apple announces ‘disability-themed emojis’ to arrive in the fall

July 17, 2019, 12:30 PM EDT |By Ben Kesslen

In a move to bring “more diversity to the keyboard,” Apple released new “disability-themed” emojis Tuesday that will be available in the fall.

Users of iPhones will soon be able to send a guide dog, an ear with a hearing aid, a person in a wheelchair, a prosthetic arm and a prosthetic leg, among other new options.

New emojis of people with disabilities

“Celebrating diversity in all its many forms is integral to Apple’s values and these new options help fill a significant gap in the emoji keyboard,” the company said, unveiling the new designs ahead of World Emoji day on Wednesday.

The emojis have been in the works for a while. Apple proposed the designs last fall to the Unicode Consortium, a nonprofit that sets the standards for emojis.

The announcement has been praised by many on social media as an important moment for inclusion for people with disabilities.

“Representation matters and for those living with MS, some of whom have visible disabilities, this is an important way for them to feel included and seen,” said Cyndi Zagieboylo, president and CEO of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

Sharron Rush, the executive director of Knowbility, a nonprofit that works to make technology more inclusive for people with disabilities, praised Apple’s decision, calling the company “a leader among tech companies in considering the needs of people with disabilities.” Rush said she hopes Apple uses to the disability-themed emojis as a “new foundation” on which to build technology that works and represents those living with disabilities.

The National Organization on Disability (NOD), a nonprofit that focuses on employment issues for people with disabilities, agrees, but added their organization is hoping for more than keyboard representation.

“These new emojis will enable one billion people with disabilities around the world to more fully and authentically express themselves,” NOD’s director of external affairs, Priyanka Ghosh, said in a statement to NBC News. “Perhaps corporate America can also seize upon these new icons to embed disability seamlessly into their everyday lexicons, enabling employees to better communicate with each other and build more disability-inclusive cultures.”

Apple also announced that along with the disability-themed emojis, users will soon be able to personalize the hand-holding couple emojis, opening up more than 75 combinations for the couple’s race and gender.

Read on NBC News

Apple’s Voice Control Is Important for Accessibility, and You

It’s free, functional, and will be woven into almost every device Apple makes.

“Open Photos. Scroll up. Show numbers. 13.”

Over the years, Apple has frequently highlighted its accessibility work in commercials, but the ad that ran for a minute and a half during game 5 of the NBA Finals was particularly powerful. In it, a man in a wheelchair — Ian Mackay, a disability advocate and outdoor enthusiast — issued the commands above to a waiting iMac. With hardly any delay, the computer did as it was told.

Rather than save Mackay a few mouse clicks, the new version of macOS spared him from having to use a switch controlled by his tongue to interact with a machine. That’s the beauty of the update’s Voice Control system: With the right combination of commands, you can control a Mac, iPhone or iPad with the same level of precision as a finger or a mouse cursor. (Just don’t confuse it with Apple’s earlier Voice Control feature, a now-deprecated tool in older versions of iOS that allowed for rudimentary device interactions.)

Even better, there’s no extra software involved — Voice Control is baked directly into Apple’s forthcoming versions of macOSiOS and iPadOS, and should be functional in the public beta builds the company will release this summer.

 

Tools like this aren’t uncommon; Windows 10 has its own voice control system and while it requires more setup that macOS’s approach, it seems to work quite well. We also know that, thanks to its work shrinking machine learning models for voice recognition, Google will release a version of Android that’ll respond to Google Assistant commands near-instantaneously. And more broadly, the rise of smart home gadgetry and virtual assistants have made the idea of talking to machines more palatable. Whether it’s to help enable more people to use their products, or just borne from a need for simplicity, controlling your devices with your voice is only becoming more prevalent.

That’s great news for people like Ian who live with motor impairments that make the traditional use of computers and smartphones difficult. “Whether you have motor impairments or simply have your hands full, accessibility features like voice commands have for a long time made life easier for all device users,” said Priyanka Ghosh, Director of External Affairs at the National Organization on Disability. “It’s terrific to see Apple stepping up in this area, and as technology continues to remove barriers to social connection and productivity, it should also remove barriers to employment.”

The way Voice Control works is straightforward enough: If you’re on an iOS device, you’ll see a tiny blue microphone light up when the software is listening. (By default, it’s set to listen for commands all the time unless you enable a feature that stops the device from recording when you’re not looking at the screen.) On Macs, a small window will appear to confirm your computer can hear you, and spell out your commands so you can tell whether it understood you correctly.

Where Voice Control shines is the sheer granularity of it all. Apple says it’s built on much of the same underlying algorithmic intelligence that powers Siri, so it’s more than adequate for actions like launching apps and transcribing your voice into text. It’s also smart enough to recognize menu items and dialog prompts by name — you can say “tap continue” to accept an app’s terms of service, for instance. Beyond that, though, you can tell Voice Control to “show numbers,” at which point it attaches a number to every single element on-screen you can interact with; from there, you can just say that number to select whatever it was you were looking for.

The controls go deeper still. If, for whatever reason, Voice Control can’t correctly tag an icon or an element on the screen with a number, you can ask it to display a grid instead. Each segment of that grid is tagged with a number you can ask to select; once that’s done, you’ll get another grid that displays an enlarged view of that section of the screen along with more numbers you can ask to interact with. Between Voice Control’s nitty-gritty control options and its underlying understanding of the operating system — mobile or otherwise — it’s running on, virtually nothing can avoid your voice’s reach.

The only real inherent limitation is the time required to get used to Voice Control’s preferred syntax. From what I’ve seen in a guided demo, it handled most casually delivered commands without trouble, but I’d imagine it would take a while to get used to the lengthy strings of commands needed to complete certain tasks. (You can, it should be noted, create Voice Command macros to simplify actions you perform regularly.)

Still, compared to the laborious process of using a modern computing gadget without fine motor control, the depth here seems worth the inevitable mouthful of commands. And remember: This functionality will be available on every device that can run the latest versions of iOS, iPadOS and macOS. That improved quality of life Voice Control makes possible is only made more potent by its wide reach, and its potential for near-immediate utility. Just update your software and you’re all set.

It’ll be months before the feature is officially released as part of Apple’s next round of software releases, but even now, there are some potential caveats worth keeping in mind. When it comes to using Voice Control on a desktop, power isn’t really a concern — the same can’t be said of laptops and iOS devices. (So far, Apple hasn’t said anything specific about Voice Control’s impact on battery life.) Not every app will play nice with Voice Control, either, at least the way they’re laid out now.

Developers who keep accessibility in mind as they craft their software are in a good position — all of their apps’ on-screen elements are probably correctly labeled in their code, which means Voice Control can identify them and make them accessible. Apple doesn’t keep a running list of apps that don’t follow these accessibility best practices, but they’re out there, and trying to use Voice Control could lead to frustration.

 

While Voice Control technically exists as an accessibility feature, it’s not hard to see it becoming more mainstream in time. In a short demo of the feature, an Apple spokesperson quickly whipped through tasks with minimal hesitation on the software’s part, and I couldn’t help but imagine myself idly directing my computer to respond to tweets with witty rejoinders. And it’s true that some of Apple’s earlier accessibility features have become more widely used, like the on-screen home button that some people use in lieu of the physical one built into older iPhones.

Could Voice Control transcend its niche status and change the way we use our iPhones in the future, perhaps as a part of a more capable Siri? After all, as I mentioned earlier, Google is pushing to make instantaneous voice commands a thing on its own devices thanks to significant improvements to Google Assistant. The answer, for now, is “maybe.”

“I think our main mission of voice control was to make sure that individuals who only have voice as an option to use a device could do so,” Sarah Herrlinger, Apple’s Senior Director of Global Accessibility Policy & Initiatives, told Engadget. “But we want to learn how people use it, and how other individuals might use it and then see how that goes. And it’s one of those things that when you build for the margins, you actually make a better product for the masses.”

Apple seems more than happy to sit back and see how people use Voice Control across all its different devices — if throngs of users without disabilities embrace the feature, that may well mandate a change in Apple’s approach. But even if that never happens, the inclusion of Voice Control across its new software updates remains one of the biggest pro-accessibility moves the company has ever made. Now it just needs to finish iOS 13, iPadOS and macOS Catalina so the people who could benefit from Voice Control can get started with it.

 

Read on Endgadet.

THE NOD CORPORATE LEADERSHIP COUNCIL CONVENES TO TALK ABOUT TRUST AT THE EXECUTIVE LUNCHEON

Douglas Conant gesturing on stage, during panel discussion.
Douglas Conant gesturing on stage, during panel discussion, along with Edelman’s Tonia Ries, Eli Lilly’s Dr. Andrea Sassman-Koleric and moderator Karen Brown.

Trust is the Essential Ingredient for Disability Inclusion in Today’s Globally Complex Business Environment

NEW YORK (June 13, 2019) –  The National Organization on Disability today hosted an executive luncheon for its Corporate Leadership Council (CLC) members at the Ford Foundation Center for Social Justice. The event, which drew nearly 100 professionals, centered on the topic of trust as integral to building an inclusive, engaged workforce, with a particular focus on self-identification (self-ID) rates – or the percentage of employees who voluntarily inform their employers that they have a disability – as a core measure of organizational trust.

Dr. Andrea Sassman-Koleric of Eli Lilly and Company shares her story of working with invisible disabilities
Dr. Andrea Sassman-Koleric of Eli Lilly and Company shares her story of working with invisible disabilities

During the event, CLC members explored emergent research and case studies from an impressive line-up of leaders who have successfully built trust with their employees, including Douglas R. Conant, Founder + CEO, ConantLeadership and the former CEO of The Campbell Soup Company; Tonia Ries, Executive Director, Edelman Intellectual Property + Edelman Trust Barometer; Adela Ruiz, Program Assistant, Office of the President, Ford Foundation; and Dr. Andrea Sassman-Kolesaric, Clinical Trial Management Consultant and Inspection Readiness Lead, Eli Lilly and Company.

Adela Ruiz from the Ford Foundation welcomes the audience and shares their progress toward total disability inclusion
Adela Ruiz from the Ford Foundation welcomes the audience and shares their progress toward total disability inclusion

“To disclose one’s disability is to take a risk. To be vulnerable. To be subject to judgment. In some cases, to be overlooked in an organization. But having trust between an employee and employer can change all of that. Trust empowers employees to ask for support, and enables leaders and colleagues to offer it,” said NOD President Carol Glazer. “I would like to extend a special ‘Thank You’ to the Ford Foundation for hosting our powerful discussion today. Not only is the building a beautiful space, but the work and time they took to make it fully meet and exceed every standard for accessibility is a testament to their commitment to diversity and inclusion.”

Tonia Ries of Edelman shared findings from their Trust Barometer
Tonia Ries of Edelman shared findings from their Trust Barometer

According to Keynote Speaker Doug Conant who was honored with the Top Thought Leader in Trust Lifetime Achievement Award by Trust Across America, “There is a reason that in the model I use to teach leadership, there are seven core practice areas, and trust is the only one connected to each of the others. Trust is foundational to leadership; they are inextricably linked.”

Carol Glazer, NOD President, shares data from NOD's Disabilty Employment Tracker on disability self-ID campaigns
Carol Glazer, NOD President, shares data from NOD’s Disability Employment Tracker on disability self-ID campaigns

Glazer added, “The Corporate Leadership Council is the heart of NOD.  Our corporate partners distinguish themselves every day as leaders in diversity and inclusion and employers of choice for people with disabilities, and we are proud to be their trusted ally.”

Don’t miss the next NOD Corporate Leadership Council event: September 26, 2019 | Shifting the Talent Paradigm: Inclusive Culture for a Modern Workforce NOD Annual Forum + Leading Disability Employers’ Dinner at the Crystal City Marriott at Reagan National Airport, Arlington, VA

 

NOD and DiversityInc Recognize Mental Health Awareness Month

Green ribbon with text reading "Mental Health Awareness Month"

By Jayme S. Ganey, Senior Writer, DiversityInc, and Carol Glazer, President of National Organization on Disability

The United States is One of the Most Stressed Countries in the World: Do you know if your colleague’s mental health is okay?

A recent Gallop poll reported that the US is one of the most stressed nations in the world. More than half of Americans (55%) reported feeling stress during a lot of the day, 45% said they worried a lot, and 22% said they “felt anger a lot,” Gallup reports.

Some might say, “Why care?” But you only need to look at productivity at work, sick time, disengagement, and the myriad companies under fire for mistreatment or lack of protection of workers to understand why this is important.

While many workers are merely debilitated by the stress in the workplace, others are actually experiencing mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder or post-traumatic stress. Since May is Mental Health Awareness Month, we’re shining a light on one of the most prevalent, but still taboo health conditions in the country.

Employees Hold Back, And It’s Costly

The reality is one in five people has a mental health condition., making them the single greatest cause of worker disability – and lost productivity – in the U.S., with costs exceeding $193 billion, according to NAMI[JA1].

NAMI research shows 62% of missed work days can be attributed to a mental health condition. The same study shows that in the case of depression, the disorder is linked to an average absenteeism rate of 2.5 days per month, resulting in average costs of $3,540-$4,600 per year, per employee.

“Mental illness will account for more than half of the economic burden of all chronic diseases, more than cancer, diabetes, and chronic respiratory diseases combined, according to another NAMI study. We’re talking about trillions of dollars, mostly in the form of lost productivity and unplanned absences.

According to a report that the National Organization on Disability advised on for the WMI, employees with invisible disabilities (many of them mental health conditions ) are less engaged than their counterparts with visible disabilities, likely because the latter workers access the accommodations they need at higher rates. Given the stigma associated with mental illness, it’s natural that workers will hold back on disclosing, and getting the accommodations they need.

And without the right supports, there can be dire consequences for employees—including increasing symptoms, loss of a job, loss of home, incarceration, self or other harm and even suicide. These issues certainly (and profoundly) affect families and communities; but they also significantly impact workplaces, because the majority of Americans spend one-third of their adult life at work.

Who Could Be In Need?

While celebrities like Taraji P. Henson, Dwayne the Rock Johnson, and others have gone public and encouraged people to get the help that they need, what about the everyday person? If you are sitting in a room with four other people at your office, one of you on average is dealing with a mental health condition. “

Mental illness manifests itself in as many ways as the human psyche is complex. It affects housewives, corporate executives, world-class athletes, and caregivers without discrimination. As we’ve reported previously If you’re a caregiver of a child with chronic medical issues, your risk increases by orders of magnitude. roughly 27% of U.S. children1 live with chronic health conditions; and nearly half of their mothers have symptoms of anxiety, depression, PTSD, or all three.

(1 One of this article’s co-authors, Carol Glazer, has told her story of caregiving for a son with chronic medical problems; and how that contributed to her diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. “I became a different person. More cautious, more prone to worry. At times impatient. Or angry with the wrong people. Fear is a constant din in the background… Clearly and unmistakably, through my son’s many life and death surgeries, related complications and repeated hospitalizations, I’d experienced trauma.”

I would come home exhausted from work only to have to then check in with the caretaker, doctor, and therapists. And I acknowledge that as a middle class working professional, I had supports that others do not.

The S Word

It’s clear that mental health struggles are not selective in who they impact. Moreover, more than half of the people diagnosed with mental health conditions will seek treatment, even though the monetary costs of treatment are negligible.

The reason people don’t seek this treatment has to do with the stigma of mental illness, which is alive and well in our society and workplaces. Stigma is not exclusive to individuals who don’t understand mental illness. It’s practiced by parents and family members, teachers, the media, health insurers, and even healthcare providers and policymakers.

When you add it all up, in the coming decades, mental illness will account for more than half of the economic burden of all chronic diseases, more than cancer, diabetes, and chronic respiratory diseases combined….

We’re talking about trillions of dollars, mostly in the form of lost productivity and unplanned absences.

And with 10X as many people with mental illness in prisons as in psychiatric facilities, this is a public health crisis of tsunami proportions.

While mental health is becoming a more prevalent conversation in the media than ever before, the unsensational stories that fuel the staggering statistics are still not helping the conversation become normal in everyday life without stigma.

Particularly in the workplace, where stigma is a known barrier, people often don’t ask for and receive help because they don’t feel they have permission or safety to speak up. And coworkers are similarly afraid of the unknown. So while an employee would no more watch a colleague trip and fall without asking whether they are OK, they should not be afraid to ask a co-worker whom they suspect is depressed or over anxious or overstressed, if they are OK.

Millennials are more apt to talk about it as they grew up with conversations about it, but navigating the discussion across generations and at work is still a challenge. Generational ideas, cultural ideas, as well as one’s own self-awareness can impede sharing.

So How Do You Start the Conversation?

We would call on people to practice empathy—putting yourself in others positions and think about how you’d want to be treated if that were your situation.

Felicia Nursmen, managing director of employer services at the National Organization on Disability, said “Recognize your own bias. Focus on people. And increase your exposure to bias,” she said. “What’s most important is that we ask the right questions and that we’re having the right conversations.”

And while employers generally cannot ask someone if they have a disability or the severity of one, you can ask if they whether they need an accommodation to get their jobs done.

NOD’s Corporate Leadership Council has companies who are working to create spaces so that employees are less reluctant to share their stories, thus allowing their managers to create more inclusive workspaces, and benefit from their diverse talents and perspectives. They produced guidelines: 6 Key Tips to Address Mental Health in your Workplace, from the NOD Corporate Leadership Council.

And there are companies leading the pack that you can learn from, including health care company and DiversityInc Hall of Famer Kaiser Permanente, whose “total health” perspective is a model for other companies.

EY, another DiversityInc Hall of Famer, birthed “R u ok?”, an ERG movement out of a Mental Health Summit they attended in 2015. It works through trainings and conversations to open conversations about mental health among employees.

Lori Golden, EY America’s Talent Team abilities strategy leader, discusses the initial outcome of EY’s ability to talk about mental health openly and frankly: r u ok? is “caring about people as well as achieving business goals.” Most rewarding for Golden is that so many people are saying they are grateful that “my organization has the courage to do this.”

There is a protocol covering how to go about asking “R u ok?”: (1) Notice signs of change in the individual who needs help. (2) Ask “r u ok?“ to start the conversation, and see whether this opens up the topic for further discussion. (3) Listen for key information that helps you gain perspective about the situation; this includes what is not said. Finally, (4) act to remedy matters by involving EY Assist or firm leadership to foster a conversation in a responsible way and get the individual/team the help they need. The role of anyone who leads the conversation is not to diagnose but rather to express care and concern when someone has shown a pattern of change in behavior.

So how will you start the conversation this month?

 

Originally published on DiversityInc.com

New Employer Survey Reveals Corporate America Still Struggling to Hire People with Disabilities

Despite Huge Demand for Talent and 20 Million Americans with Disabilities Eager to Work, Job Connections Still Falling Short


NEW YORK (May 29, 2019)
– Despite record low unemployment and reports by hiring managers of an enormous demand for talent, a new survey of nearly 200 companies that collectively employ more than 9.5 million people reveals that U.S. employers are still not hiring larger numbers of people with disabilities to meet their talent needs. The findings come from the 2019 Disability Employment Tracker, an annual assessment provided by the National Organization on Disability (NOD), which has researched such issues since 1982 and advises large employers on how to create more inclusive workplaces for people with disabilities. Among the 199 companies surveyed, 40% are Fortune 500 companies with 61% having more than 10,000 employees.

“In a labor market where there is an enormous demand for talent – a demand that is only going to increase – we had expected to see the needle move more than it has,” said NOD President Carol Glazer. “While we are seeing more employers embracing the notion that they can’t afford to miss out on quality talent, including people with disabilities, these ideas are not translating into hiring numbers. Many employers either have not made it a priority or simply have not been able to figure it out.”

•	4.0% - Average percentage of employees identifying as having a disability •	13% - Companies that have reached the Dept. of Labor target of 7% disability representation

Just over 1 in 10 companies surveyed (13%) have reached the target set by the U.S. Department of Labor for federal contractors that 7% of their workforce be represented by people with disabilities.

Other key Tracker findings include:

  • While 98% of companies report that overall diversity is promoted publicly by a senior leader, that number falls precipitously to 76% for disability
  • 89% of companies maintain employee resource groups focused on diversity, while only 64% have similar ERGs for disability
  • When it comes to hiring, barely half (51%) focus on campus recruiting for students with disabilities and only 42% create internships for that same population

“The Tracker very clearly shows that the various approaches to hiring people with disabilities all fall to the bottom of the list, despite how frequently companies tell us that hiring is their biggest goal,” said Felicia Nurmsen, NOD’s Managing Director of Employer Services. “This may be because some companies don’t know how to approach targeted hiring, while others feel like they might not be ‘inclusive enough’ yet to start. We try to explain that there are organizations like ours that are eager to help them get started.”

Nurmsen added that NOD’s work in Boston, where NOD has been implementing a pilot program called Campus to Careers, finds that once employers actively engage on a campus and open a dialogue with disability services, those barriers are quickly broken down, leading to employment.

“The good news is that we are seeing some positive gains in other key areas,” said Nurmsen. “One such change is there is a broader awareness of disability inclusion, and meaningful increases in training. In 2018, for example, just 13% of HR generalists report having been trained in disability employment. That’s up significantly in 2019 to 69%. So we have a workforce that is more capable of bringing people into the fold once hired. That tells us that if we can get employers to improve their recruitment efforts, those new employees will be able to make a smoother transition.”

Learn more about the Disability Employment Tracker and download an infographic detailing its key findings.

NOD Statement on ‘Game of Thrones’ Ending Featured by TMZ

NOD issued a statement to popular culture outlet TMZ this week on the ending of hit HBO show Game of Thrones, and the drama’s depiction of disability following a flurry of social media activity on the subject. Felicia Nurmsen, our Managing Director of Employer Services, gave the following statement (WARNING: SPOILERS):

The National Organization on Disability has been thrilled to see disability featured in the hit HBO show Game of Thrones as an ongoing story thread. The series, though set in a long-ago realm of fantasy, has for eight years served as a mirror for society on many subjects, including disability. For most of their respective journeys, Tyrion Lannister and Bran Stark (the show’s most prominent characters with disabilities) are treated at best with pity, and at worst with revulsion and antipathy. Despite disdain and dismissal, each demonstrates grit, creativity, fortitude, wisdom, and courage in not only surviving the long winter, but also in rising to significant positions of leadership; an excellent parallel to the experience of people with disabilities in the workforce. In the moment that ‘Bran the Broken’ is named King of the Six Kingdoms, choosing Tyrion as his chief adviser, Game of Thrones (perhaps accidentally) adroitly captured the irony of disability in America: No matter how much we achieve, the overall impression of our community is fundamentally still one of brokenness. NOD has been working to change that narrative, and generational, landmark media properties like Game of Thrones help drive these conversations further—whether viewers liked the ending or not.

Click here to see the article on TMZ.

NOD’s Felicia Nurmsen Takes to the Airwaves to Discuss Increasing Disability Inclusion in the Workforce

Felicia speaking on an NOD Panel, while gesturing
Felicia speaking on a panel at the 2018 NOD Annual Forum, while seated speakers look on.

 

 

Managing Director of Employer Services Felicia Nurmsen visited Philadelphia Focus radio host Lora Lewis for an in-depth interview on disability inclusion and discussed how NOD works with employers and schools to grow job opportunities for people with disabilities.

Said Nurmsen: “People with disabilities want to go to work…. They would like to be productive and can be productive—very productive. Studies show that people with disabilities can be as or more productive than their non-disabled peers and actually have higher retention rates.”

Listen on WJBR: Focus on the Delaware Valley

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