April 3, 2020 | By Carol Glazer, President, National Organization on Disability
These days instead of coffee breaks at work — I take milk and cookie breaks.
That’s the preference of Jacob, my 27-year-old son who has physical and intellectual disabilities. When someone asks him how he likes having me working from home, he tends to grin and say, “I like it when my mom becomes a milk and cookies mom.”
Because of COVID-19, we are truly immersed in a forced experiment of telework: working from home by using electronic devices and Internet communications.
According to the Telework Research Institute, enabling employees to work from home half time, can save an employer $10,000 a year; and an employee $3,000 annually. It would also enable tens of thousands of people with disabilities to enter the workforce.
At the National Organization on Disability, we decided when the first warning signs began appearing in the news that we would all work remotely. While it’s brought some discomfort, especially to younger staff who live in small apartments, overall the quality of our communications and teamwork has dramatically improved.
This is something that people with disabilities have known for some time: with the proper work accommodations at home, employees can be successful. In some respects there is frustration as they see employees getting the kinds of tools and equipment they have said for years would allow them to be valuable assets to businesses.
We want to break down the barriers that separate the abilities and aspirations of the 57 million Americans with disabilities from the avenues of opportunity, achievement and fulfillment that come from productive employment.
Before the current economic slowdown, the employment-to-population ratio for working-age people with disabilities was historically high, yet it was only at 31 percent, against 75 percent for working-age people without disabilities. The gap is certain to get worse in the coming months since people with disabilities are the last hired and the first fired.
Not everyone has a job that they can pack up and take home with them, I feel fortunate I can telework with my dear colleagues.
We are learning lessons as a society because of this experience. I hope that one we continue to focus on is creating more avenues for people to work at home. I think about my own staff, some of whom have long commutes, take care of children or elderly parents. I also think about the brick and mortar cost of our office. We now are considering a work plan that makes telework a regular feature.
Because we have been forced to shift our workforce out of the office, I think companies will see the advantages for Americans working remotely, including people with disabilities, who thrive if simply given the opportunity.
Carol Glazer is President of the National Organization on Disability, the nation’s oldest civil rights organization representing all of America’s 57 million people with disabilities. She is a speaker and subject matter expert on issues regarding the employment of people with disabilities and has addressed audiences at national conferences, corporate forums and higher education institutions, among others.
Carol holds a Master’s Degree in Public Policy from Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and in 2012, was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters by Allegheny College for her work on behalf of individuals with disabilities. She has two children, one of whom was born with hydrocephalus and has physical and intellectual disabilities.
March 20, 2020 | By Charles Catherine, Special Assistant, NOD
I am standing in my grocery store, waiting for Willy, one of the workers who usually helps me to do my shopping. As I reach out and grab his familiar shoulder, I realize that something has changed, I’m reluctant to touch him.
I’m only 31 years old, but I have already dealt with my own finitude, I lost my sight about 10 years ago. Around 57 million Americans live with a disability, that’s about 20 percent of the population. But even during this crisis, people with disabilities still get out of bed and move through life despite new and unpredictable threats to our health. In many ways, to us, nothing has changed.
Of course, while simply having a disability doesn’t by itself put someone at higher risk from coronavirus, many people with disabilities do have specific disabilities or chronic conditions that make the illness more dangerous for them.
When I go shopping, or when I go for a run, I need someone’s help, I need to touch many things, and I have to remind myself to take extra steps to remain safe and healthy. But for some of my friends, this situation is even more complex. They can’t always isolate themselves as thoroughly as others, because they need regular, hands-on help from other people to do daily self-care tasks.
What I’ve learned during the past few weeks is that the greater risks for our community may not stem from actual disease, but from the disruptions in services and routines it can cause. Some people with disabilities depend on regular help and support from others to maintain their independence. Aides and caregivers may become sick themselves, or the risk of catching or spreading illness may require aides and caregivers to stay home. This crisis reminds us that we are responsible for one another.
I realize that I am fortunate, I am relatively healthy, I am able to work from home, and I actually think that during this crisis many companies will understand that they could have, and probably should have, more flexible work policies and accommodations. But I also know that many jobs will be lost in the coming weeks, and that just like in 2008, people with disabilities will often be the “last ones hired and the first ones fired”.
My parents would probably tell you that my disability has taught me how to live despite my fears, how to navigate a world full of potential dangers. Through my work with the National Organization on Disability, I have channeled some of my fear into advocacy. By organizing with advocates and leading companies who are supporting our work, by reaching out to elected officials with our concerns and needs, I feel useful, and try to accomplish a bit of change that makes things better for everyone. My hope is that in the coming weeks, we will apply the same energy to overcome our fears and come together as a community, be there for each other to face this pandemic.
If I have learned one thing through my disability, it is that there is something wonderful about human resilience, and that this quality is within each of us.
Charles Edouard Catherine joined the National Organization on Disability in 2018 as the special assistant to the president, Carol Glazer. With a background in Global Health, he served for several years as the executive director of the Surgeons of Hope Foundation. He successfully led the expansion of the organization from operating a solo program in Nicaragua to several ongoing, congruent programs throughout Latin America. A 2012 graduate of Sciences Po Bordeaux, France, Charles holds a Master’s degrees in International Relations. Charles is also a classical pianist of 25 years, a marathoner, and an elite triathlete.
Discover how we’re making an impact for Americans with disabilities in our newly released Report to the Field. Covering highlights from NOD’s innovative disability employment programs, this newly released report reveals how:
In 2019, over 200 U.S. companies employing 9 million people took the Disability Employment Tracker assessment,
The Look Closer campaign reached over 110 million people since launching in October 2018,
On Friday, November 15th, 2019, NOD Chairman and former Pennsylvania Governor, Tom Ridge, sat before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights representing the National Organization on Disability. There to discuss the abolition of sub-minimum wages for Americans with disabilities, Gov. Ridge’s remarks touched upon the dignity of work, and the right of all Americans to participate in our national prosperity towards independence and financial security.
Read the full text of Gov. Ridge’s remarks, below.
Remarks on Behalf of National Organization on Disability To the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights November 15, 2019
Good afternoon. First let me thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today. It is an honor to appear as chairman of the National Organization of Disability, which I have been privileged to serve since shortly after I left public service in 2005.
I also want to acknowledge the comments of my fellow panelists for their expertise and remarks.
The National Organization on Disability is a private, nonprofit organization that promotes the full participation and contributions of America’s 57 million people with disabilities n all aspects of life. We primarily focus on increasing employment opportunities for the nearly 80% of working age Americans with disabilities who are not employed.
The core civil rights vision of the Americans with Disabilities Act and other disability rights laws inform the approach NOD takes to improving the lives of children and adults with disabilities. The historic Civil Rights Act of 1964 unequivocally told the world that discrimination based upon race, color, religion, sex, or national orientation would not be tolerated within America. The ADA expanded the Civil Rights Act’s powerful and historic protections to include people with disabilities. All Americans should have the opportunity to pursue their dreams.
Over the last few months, I’ve had the privilege, through my work with NOD, to meet with many of the largest, most politically influential, and most effective disability organizations in America today. We’ve put aside our specific agendas and individual priorities and found common cause. Collectively, we represent a powerful political constituency. We concluded that we needed to collaborate to bring more workers with disabilities into the competitive labor market with fair wages. We concluded that we would work together to phase out section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which sanctions paying individuals with disabilities less than minimum wage. We concluded this is a civil rights issue and that 14(c) is inconsistent with the fairness and equal opportunity guaranteed to every citizen in the Unites under existing legislation.
Some people working under 14(c) certificates earn mere pennies per hour. We see this clearly as a Civil Rights issue. No one, regardless of creed, race, gender, age, or disability, should be subject to such economic discrimination. This system tells Americans with disabilities and their families that they are not worth the same as other Americans, that society values them and their labor less.
This practice is also contrary to the Americans with Disabilities Act, which sought to achieve fairness by providing statutory protection of the rights of Americans with disabilities to compete on a level playing filed with their non-disabled peers.
Back in 1938, when the FLSA legislation was first passed, everyone assumed that a worker with a disability was less productive than a non-disabled worker. In retrospect, a flawed assumption. We want to be fair to the intent of the original legislation, which was to provide, at minimum, individuals with disabilities an opportunity to enter the workforce.
80 years later, however, the law still contains Section 14(c). Now we know that workers with disabilities, given equal opportunity and appropriate tools or technologies, can perform as well as their non-disabled counterparts.
NOD has proof of this. Each year, NOD recognizes businesses through their Leading Disability Employer Seal™. This applauds organizations that are leading the way in disability inclusion and tapping into the many benefits of hiring talent with disabilities, including high rates of productivity and dedication, and greater employee engagement across the workforce.
The experience of these companies confirms that individuals with disabilities perform far beyond typical expectations and as well as their non-disabled peers.
Some well-intentioned advocates express concern that elimination of 14(c) would severely limit opportunities for many Americans with disabilities who may use workshops as both a place for meaningful social interaction and a respite for caregivers. We understand their concern, but we remind them there are other options available. 14(c) is not a funding program, it is a certificate. Federal funding will still be available to support individuals with disabilities.
Person-centered planning, where funding goes directly to the individual with a disability instead of to a 14(c)-certificate holding agency is an excellent option. Person-centered planning gives an opportunity for individuals with disabilities to have a greater voice in their life direction. Let me give you a wonderful example. NOD’s executive director Carol Glazer’s son, Jacob, has a severe disability. He also has meaningful employment.
Thanks to a person-centered planning model, Jacob works part-time, above minimum wage at the NBA store. Medicaid pays for his job coach at the store. Jacob also volunteers in integrated settings the rest of the time and takes weekly classes in art, music, cooking, and fitness. We believe that transitioning federal supports toward a person-centered planning model will give people more choices than they realize, like Jacob has choices.
Individuals with disabilities, parents, and caregivers can then choose to use federal funding for job coaches, supports, or ultimately at agencies. Eliminating 14(c) would give individuals with disabilities, their families, and the organizations that support them greater flexibility.
All this being said, we understand that transitioning away from our current model will take time and resources. We believe that supports to states and providers to transition away from 14(c) are necessary to help make this successful.
In 2016, the Advisory Committee on Increasing Competitive Integrated Employment for Individuals with Disabilities released a report. As you are aware, the Advisory Committee was established under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. The Committee was comprised of government officials, self-advocates, providers of employment services, representatives of national disability advocacy organizations, experts with a background in academia, employer representatives, and others with related expertise. The Advisory Committee called on Congress to allow for a multi-year, well-planned phase out of Section 14(c). It detailed that the federal government should assist with building the capacity of service systems to provide alternatives to those provided for under programs using a 14(c) certificate.
Similarly, the National Council on Disability’s released a report, “National Disability Employment Policy, From the New Deal to the Real Deal: Joining the Industries of the Future.” The National Council on Disability is an independent federal agency charged with advising the President, Congress, and other federal agencies regarding policies that affect people with disabilities. NCD also recommends phasing out of 14(c) while providing increased capacity supports as well. It recommended that the Department of Labor issue a two-year moratorium on any new 14(c) certificates, and that oversight of the existing 14(c) system be increased until the phase-out is complete.
These two established, respected groups, are absolutely right. The federal government should phase out 14(c) AND provide supports to ensure the transition is smooth. That is why the National Organization on Disability, along with the more than dozen groups we have joined together with, support the Transformation to Competitive Employment Act introduced by Senators Casey and Van Hollen and Representatives Bobby Scott and Cathy McMorris Rodgers. This legislation was carefully crafted to phase-out 14(c) while providing resources to states, services providers, subminimum wage certificate holders, and other agencies to ensure inclusive wraparound services for individuals with disabilities. These resources could be used to help providers create new models of workforce opportunities for individuals with disabilities that do not rely on subminimum wage.
In 2019, there is no excuse for treating an entire class of workers differently from others based solely on the characteristic of disability. Such treatment is discriminatory, just as it would be if applied to individuals of a specific race, gender, or sex. All Americans, including those with disabilities, must have a chance to have the financial freedom and security we all desire. Their sense of self-worth and the value of their labor requires society to protect their right to secure employment at least at minimum wage. After 80 years, phasing out Section 14(c) is a step that we can take right now to move closer to that goal. It is long past time to take this fair, commonsense step in the march to freedom for Americans with disabilities.
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share these thoughts with you – and yes – thank you for your public service.
November 13, 2019 – The National Organization on Disability today honors the life and legacy of Bernard J. Tyson, a tireless advocate for equality, who passed this weekend at the age of 60. During his 30-year career with the organization, Tyson earned the rank of chairman and chief executive officer of Kaiser Permanente Health Systems and Foundation Hospitals.
Tyson was a visionary, who helped shaped the future of healthcare. Under his leadership, Kaiser Permanente sought to mitigate the root causes of public health epidemics, like obesity, mental illness and homelessness, rather than simply treating affected patients.
As Kaiser Permanente’s first black CEO, Tyson became a leading voice for the African-American community and used his platform to champion social justice for minorities, including people with disabilities. By enthusiastically embracing diversity, Kaiser Permanente built an inclusive workforce that fueled a culture of innovation.
Just prior to his passing, Bernard addressed a corporate audience, saying: “What I’m after is bringing the most diverse populations inside of my organization and tapping into the brilliant minds that come from a universe of experiences that are very different depending on how you grew up, your community, your neighborhood, how you solve problems.”
NOD Board Director Ronald Copeland, M.D., F.A.C.S., who serves Kaiser Permanente as Senior Vice President & Chief Equity, Inclusion & Diversity Officer, shared his reflections on the sudden loss of Tyson: “The robust recognition and praise he has received by so many KP employees, national leaders and communities for his vision, courage, compassion and actions serves as a healing force for grief. We will transcend this moment and honor his legacy with dignity and courage.”
Bernard J. Tyson was an optimistic and fearless agent of change, which we at NOD hope and strive to embody in his memory.
For Pat Quinn, eye-tracking technology is a lifeline to the world. Mr. Quinn, who suffers from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, is almost completely paralyzed. To speak, write, change the television channel or turn on the lights in his Yonkers, N.Y., home, he flicks his eyes over a computer screen. The device has an infrared camera below the display; he can “click” on files, links or letters on a keyboard by looking at them.
“I honestly don’t know how patients remained active without this. I use it every second I am awake,” said Mr. Quinn, 36, through a voice synthesizer. Mr. Quinn works as an advocate for patients with ALS; in 2014, he co-created the “Ice Bucket Challenge,” a viral social-media campaign that raised $115 million for research into ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, according to the ALS Association.
Mr. Quinn’s device is one example of how eye-tracking technology is surfacing in the medical field. Health care professionals are beginning to use it to teach medical students, improve surgeries and diagnose issues such as nearsightedness. One day, the technology may even help treat eye diseases.
Assistive computers and speech-generating devices like Mr. Quinn’s are not new. The physicist Stephen Hawking used one for decades, but that device and most others like it required patients to select words using a joystick or physical switch. Mr. Hawking controlled his computer by twitching a cheek muscle, a painstaking method that made it increasingly difficult to communicate as his disease progressed.
In contrast, Mr. Quinn’s device, made by Stockholm-based Tobii, is quicker, more accurate and easier to operate, says the company. Tobii was founded in 2001 after John Elvesjö, then an engineering student, built a computerized camera that could count bubbles in liquids. After realizing it could also track his pupils, he began developing an eye-tracking system that could control a computer. The team initially positioned its system for use in scientific research but quickly identified a market in health care. “We had experts approach us at trade shows and conferences saying, ‘Do you understand how much good this could do for people with disabilities?’” said Henrik Eskilsson, chief executive and co-founder.
“Going into the 21st century, this technology will allow people with all kinds of disorders to go to work when they hadn’t been able to do that in the past,” said Howard Green, deputy director of professional services for the National Organization on Disability.
Pat Quinn, the co-creator of the ‘Ice Bucket Challenge,’ a viral social-media campaign that raised funds for research into ALS, gives a speech using a Tobii device. Photo: Pat Quinn
The technology faces some hurdles to mainstream adoption, including the price. Tobii’s flagship speech-generating devices, like the one Mr. Quinn uses, retail for $14,000. Most patients are able to subsidize that cost using private health insurance or Medicare, the company says.
Consumers may balk at the potential invasion of privacy. But, experts say, eye-tracking devices only “see” the area around the eyes in near-infrared, and use that to calculate the coordinates of the user’s gaze. They don’t save or transmit images, so they can’t be used for spying. A computer equipped with eye-tracking hardware knows what you type or what you click, similar to a computer equipped with a keyboard or mouse.
Eye-tracking technology has been around for decades, but the devices were complicated, said Werner Goertz, senior director at the market research firm Gartner Inc. Today, companies such as Tobii are selling technology that allows other companies to add eye-tracking capabilities to their own products, allowing startups in industries including health care, retail, automotive and consumer electronics to test it out. “You just buy it off the shelf and stick your own application on top of it,” said Mr. Goetz.
One Tobii customer, Atlanta-based ControlRad, says it has developed a system that uses eye-tracking hardware to help control X-ray scanners, reducing patient and doctor radiation exposure during surgery. Typically, when surgeons X-ray patients during procedures, they must constantly scan a region of the body with large doses of radiation to produce high-resolution images. ControlRad’s product uses low-dose radiation on the body, focusing the high-energy radiation only at the point where the doctor is looking. The company is seeking approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and hopes to release the system next year.
Medical schools are also using eye-tracking devices to help teach future doctors. At the German Heart Center in Berlin, instructors wear glasses equipped with eye-tracking cameras while they perform complicated procedures including heart-bypass surgeries. Students watching the operation on a monitor can see what the doctor is looking at, without stopping the procedure to gesture or point.
Other eye-tracking applications are used for diagnosis. The Israeli company NovaSight sells a vision-assessment system that requires patients wear LCD glasses and watch 20- to 60-second videos on an eye-tracking tablet. The test can identify vision impairments including myopia, or nearsightedness, as well as color blindness and contrast sensitivity, according to Moshe Barel, vice president of sales and marketing. NovaSight has signed an agreement with Essilor International, the French ophthalmic optics company, to sell the product to hospitals and vision clinics.
Custom Parts: The Future of Transplanted Organs
Demand for donated organs far outstrips supply. But researchers are working to remedy the crisis using everything from gene-edited pigs to 3D-printed tissue.
NovaSight’s product could help address weaknesses of current vision screenings, which do not mimic real life, said Dr. Rajat Agrawal, an ophthalmologist and chief executive of the eye-health nonprofit Retina Global. “You sit in a room with controlled lighting and look at a chart at a fixed distance while your head is still,” he said. Watching videos on a tablet replicates a more natural, real-world activity and doesn’t require the user to self-report. “It could play a significant role in years ahead in terms of visual screening,” said Dr. Agrawal, who is not affiliated with NovaSight.
Researchers at Texas Tech University and the University of Massachusetts, Boston, have used eye-tracking headsets to study autism spectrum disorders in children. When most children look at another person’s face, their gaze tends to focus on the eyes and nose; autistic children’s gazes wander. The research could eventually lead to systems that allow doctors to identify neurological impairments in children who might otherwise be too young to diagnose.
The next step for eye-tracking systems may be the treatment of disease. NovaSight is testing hardware that it hopes will be able to cure amblyopia, better known as lazy eye. Standard treatments require patients to wear an eyepatch for months so their affected eye gets stronger with use. With NovaSight’s system, they watch a few minutes of videos every day on a tablet equipped with eye-tracking hardware. The videos are precisely blurred so the patient’s lazy eye has to compensate, according to the company. Mr. Barel said the system has passed a small clinical trial in Israel and will undergo a larger trial in the U.S. next year.
Mr. Goetz of Gartner expects more eye-tracking products to hit the market in 2020, thanks to the increased availability of low-cost hardware and basic technology that is safe and reliable. Meanwhile, Mr. Quinn remains an evangelist for his eye-tracking tablet. “I’m still growing and having amazing moments in my life, and I couldn’t do it without this technology,” he said.
On September 26th, 2019, NOD presented Darren Walker with the first annual Alan Reich Award, recognizing a leader who has demonstrated commitment and excellence in the area of disability inclusion. Mr. Walker’s selection was based on his stewardship of the Ford Foundation’s nascent disability inclusion investment program, and his co-creation, with Richard Besser of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, of the Presidents’ Council on Disability Inclusion in Philanthropy.
In this video tribute, Darren accepts the award and speaks to the importance of disability inclusion work and the Ford Foundation’s relationship with NOD
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court cleared the way Monday for blind people to sue Domino’s Pizza and other retailers if their websites are not accessible.
In a potentially far-reaching move, the justices turned down an appeal from Domino’s and let stand a U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling holding that the Americans With Disabilities Act protects access not just to restaurants and stores but also to the websites and apps of those businesses.
Guillermo Robles, who is blind, filed suit in Los Angeles three years ago and complained he had been unable to order a pizza online because the Domino’s website lacked the software that would allow him to communicate. He cited the ADA, which guarantees to persons with a disability “full and equal enjoyment of the goods and services … of any place of public accommodations.”
Lawyers for Domino’s agreed the provision applied to its bricks-and-mortar pizza locations, but not its website.
Last year, however, the 9th Circuit ruled for Robles and said the law applied to its online services as well as the stores.
“The ADA mandates that places of public accommodation, like Domino’s, provide auxiliary aids and services to make visual materials available to individuals who are blind,” the appeals court said in January.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and business groups that said they represented 500,000 restaurants and 300,000 businesses joined in an appeal urging the high court to review the 9th Circuit’s decision. They complained of a “tsunami of litigation” and worried that judges nationwide would see the appeals court’s decision as “imposing a nationwide website-accessibility mandate.”
But without comment or dissent on Monday, the high court said it would not hear the case of Domino’s Pizza vs. Robles.
This is not a formal ruling upholding the 9th Circuit decision, and the justices could agree to take up the issue later if lower courts are divided. But for now, the court’s action strongly suggests that retailers will be required to make their websites accessible.
Joseph R. Manning Jr., a Newport Beach lawyer who represented Robles, said the high court made “the right call. There can be no debate that the blind and visually impaired require accessible websites and mobile apps to function on an equal footing in the modern world.”
Mark Whitley, president of Easterseals Southern California, praised the high court for “supporting the values … the ADA was built upon.”
Domino’s and the National Retail Federation issued statements saying they were disappointed in the court’s refusal to hear the case. The 9th Circuit sent the case back to a district judge in Los Angeles to decide whether Robles suffered discrimination.
“We look forward to presenting our case at the trial court. We also remain steadfast in our belief in the need for federal standards for everyone to follow in making their websites and mobile apps accessible,” Domino’s said its statement.
These employers are dedicated to disability inclusion and recognize the benefits of hiring workers with disabilities.
October 1, 2019 | Lily Martis, Monster contributor
While October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, unemployment for adults with disabilities is an epidemic in the workforce that’s seen all year, every year.
The unemployment rate for workers with disabilities in 2018, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), was 8%—more than double that for those with no disability. While the unemployment rate for workers with disabilities has declined over the years—it was 14.5% in 2009, when the unemployment rate for persons with a disability was first reported by the BLS—there is still much more that needs to be done to help workers with disabilities find jobs.
Fortunately, some best-in-class employers are already leading the way in disability inclusion in the workplace. Every year, the National Organization on Disability (NOD) recognizes these top employers with a seal for not only leading the way in disability inclusion, but also for tapping into the many benefits that come with hiring talent with disabilities, which include high rates of productivity, strong dedication, and greater engagement at work.