Are You Ready To Challenge Your Accessibility Assumptions?

By Tamar Savir | Medium, October 25th, 2021

We kicked off the #NoMouseVMware challenge this week, inviting employees to navigate a website or a tool for 30 minutes using only the keyboard.

A woman standing next to a computer. A cat is walking past the computer with a computer mouse in its mouth.

Not everyone relies on a mouse or a trackpad when using their computers. The general “cat” population may be surprised to know there are many keyboard-only users among us. For example, people who are blind or have low vision use assistive technology such as screen readers or braille displays and rely on keyboard functionality to navigate a page or browse content online. Other examples include people with dexterity difficulties. Approximately 7% of working adults have Parkinson’s, arthritis, or carpal tunnel syndrome. They find it easier to use the keyboard. Whatever the reason is — necessity or preference — there are many keyboard-only users navigating a world that was not designed for them.

 

Making the digital world more inclusive is something we can all contribute to.

 

An important first step is to experience the digital world the same way that keyboard-only users’ do. We’ve invited VMware employees to take the #NoMouseVMware challenge. You can join us too! Choose a website, or an app or tool, and navigate it using only a keyboard for 30 minutes. So, without a mouse (or a trackpad!) try to:

  • Navigate a menu bar
  • Write an email
  • Check out a newsfeed
  • Scroll down a timeline
  • Watch a video
  • Read an article
  • Subscribe to, or purchase, an item
  • Download a document
  • Review your PowerPoint slides

 

Navigation 101

A cat sitting next to a computer with a "no mouse" sign on the screen

 

Before you start, here are a few tips on keyboard navigation:

  • Press Tab to move to the next link, form element or button.
  • Press Shift+Tab to move to the previous link, form element, or button.
  • Press Enter or space bar to activate the current link or button.
  • Use arrow keys, Escape, or other keys if it makes sense.

 

How long did it take before you hit a roadblock?

A cat dragging a computer mouse in its mouth

 

Or felt frustrated enough to throw your hands up in the air? Ten minutes? Five? Post a comment if you experienced at least one of the options listed below:

  • You couldn’t locate or lost where you were on the page because there wasn’t any visual indication.
  • You had to tab excessively to get to the main page content because there was no skip link.
  • You opened a modal window and noticed keyboard focus didn’t move to it.
  • You skipped over entire parts of the page that you knew you should be able to interact with.
  • You noticed focus jumped to active elements on the page in a random and illogical order.

Surely you can add a few more bullets to the list!

If a 30-minute challenge felt so painful, annoying and/ or frustrating, imagine how difficult it must be for someone who experiences it every day. We encourage you to think about your customers, potential hires and, of course, employees who are:

  • Using keyboards only to navigate your products and website.
  • Sitting through a training or sales pitch, and using the keyboard to navigate your PowerPoint presentations, email or other content.

Making the digital space accessible is everyone’s responsibility. Whether you are part of Marketing, Products, Sales, HR or any other function — we all have a role to play. Let’s become better accessibility advocates. Commit to use the keyboard more often, and if something isn’t working, raise a ticket or get it fixed.

With your help, we can build a future that is accessible for all.

 

Devoted Community Activist and Actor Robert David Hall Receives Lifetime Achievement Award From NOD at Annual Forum

Robert David Hall headshot

NEW YORK (OCTOBER 1, 2021) – Robert David Hall, who starred as ‘Dr. Al Robbins’ on CBS TV’s “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” and one of the most prominent actors with a disability working today, is the recipient of the National Organization on Disability’s (NOD) 2021 Lifetime Achievement Award. Hall, who lost both of his legs in 1978 when an 18-wheel truck struck his car, is receiving the award in recognition of his exceptional contributions as a leader and advocate for people with disabilities. Hall also is the longest serving member on NOD’s board of directors. He was presented with the award at NOD’s online Annual Forum, “Disability Inclusion in the Next Normal” on September 30, 2021.

“It is our honor to present David with this Lifetime Achievement Award,” said NOD President Carol Glazer. “David does so much behind the scenes to advocate for disability rights, not only professionally, but in his private life as well. He has paved the way for actors with disabilities and has been an incredible role model for so many. His work is leaving a legacy. I am proud to call him my colleague and friend.”

Hall’s other achievements include serving as a past member of the national board of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG), and was also the national chairman of the Performers with Disabilities Caucus for SAG, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists and the London-based trade union Equity. Along with his time on NOD’s board, he has served on the Mark Taper Forum’s Other Voices Project, which promotes empowerment of writers and performers with disabilities in the American theater. In 2010, he had the privilege of introducing President Barack Obama at the 20th Anniversary celebration for the Americans with Disabilities Act on the White House lawn.

I’m honored and grateful to receive the NOD Lifetime Achievement Award,” said Hall.

“I dedicate this award to my late Mother and Father; Dad was tough, Mom was encouraging, and all my siblings knew they were loved. Along with many others, I have dedicated many years to advocating for people with disabilities, and I stand proudly by NOD’s mission to recognize everyone’s abilities and talents, especially in the workforce. I encourage all companies (especially those in the media and entertainment fields) to see people with disabilities as they are —productive, resilient, and hard working. People with disabilities can do anything if they are given the opportunity. I like to think that I’m a small part of that big picture. Thanks especially to my wife, Judy, who loves me fiercely and overlooks most of my imperfections.”

 


About the NOD Annual Forum

Diversity and inclusion leaders from global companies attended the National Organization on Disability’s Annual Forum on September 30. Academy Award winner Marlee Matlin kicked off the two-hour virtual showcase entitled, “Leadership Council Forum: Disability Inclusion in the Next Normal” with an inspiring keynote address.  Emceed by actress Santina Muha, the Forum addressed the challenges that business leaders continue to face in a shifting economy and post-COVID era as they prepare to bring employees back to the office or continue providing a remote work environment. It also unpacked the opportunities the global pandemic has afforded employees with disabilities as it relates to digital accessibility, mental health programs and better workplace flexibility. For more information about Robert David Hall and other 2021 award winners, visit https://bit.ly/39qd5Nc.

                                                                                                                 

About National Organization on Disability (NOD)

The National Organization on Disability (NOD) is a private, non-profit organization that seeks to increase employment opportunities for the 80 percent of working-age Americans with disabilities who are not employed. To achieve this goal, NOD offers a suite of employment solutions, tailored to meet leading companies’ workforce needs. NOD has helped some of the world’s most recognized brands become more competitive in today’s global economy by building or enriching their disability inclusion programs. For more information about NOD and how its professional services, Leadership Council and Employment Tracker™ can help your business, visit www.NOD.org.

Find Leading Disability Employers

These employers are dedicated to disability inclusion and recognize the benefits of hiring workers with disabilities.

Find Leading Disability EmployersThese employers are dedicated to inclusivity.

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. In fact, according to Monster’s Future of Work survey, only 7 percent of employers include disability recruitment as part of their DEI strategy.

Yet the shift to remote work in response to the pandemic has allowed many people with disabilities (PWD) to find work and opened up new opportunities. However, many PWD are still reluctant to disclose a disability to an employer.

Fortunately, some best-in-class employers are already creating inclusive workplaces and removing barriers for PWD to find jobs. Every year, the National Organization on Disability (NOD) recognizes these top companies for not only leading the way in 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.

Listed below in alphabetical order, are over 50 top companies across bankingconsultingfinancial serviceshealthcare, and  IT. See which of the following would be a good fit for you.

Top disability employers of 2021

  • AbbVie
  • Accenture
  • American Heart Association
  • Anthem
  • AT&T
  • Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan
  • Blue Shield of California
  • Capital One
  • Centene
  • Cerner Corporation
  • Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
  • Comcast NBCUniversal
  • Dow
  • Eli Lilly and Company
  • EY
  • Financial Industry Regulatory Authority
  • GDIT
  • Hilton Worldwide
  • Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey
  • HSBC
  • Humana
  • Huntington Bank
  • Idaho National Laboratory
  • Independence Care System
  • Kaiser Permanente
  • KeyBank
  • KPMG U.S.
  • L’Oréal USA
  • Leidos
  • Level Access
  • Lockheed Martin
  • M&T Bank
  • Marriott International
  • Martinsburg Veterans Affairs Medical Center
  • Mayo Clinic
  • National Grid USA
  • National Security Agency
  • Nautilus Hyosung America
  • New Editions Consulting
  • New York Life
  • Northrop Grumman
  • PRIDE Industries
  • Prudential Financial
  • PSEG
  • Puerto Rico Industries for the Blind
  • PwC
  • Randstad US
  • Reed Smith
  • RespectAbility
  • SEI
  • Skookum Contract Services
  • Sodexo
  • Sony Corporation of America
  • T-Mobile, USA
  • TD
  • The Boeing Company
  • The Hershey Company
  • The Viscardi Center
  • TIAA
  • U.S. Bank
  • United Airlines
  • Unum Group
  • W.W. Grainger, Inc.
  • WeCo Accessibility Services
  • Wells Fargo & Company

NOD Announces the 2021 Leading Disability Employers at Annual Forum Bringing Together Global CEOs, Celebrities and Policy Influencers to Reimagine the Future of the Workplace

NEW YORK, NY – (September 30, 2021) – At the National Organization on Disability (NOD)’s Annual Forum, entitled “Disability Inclusion in the Next Normal”, sixty-seven companies were honored as 2021 NOD Leading Disability Employers.  Now in its seventh year, the NOD Leading Disability Employer Seal recognizes companies for measuring and achieving strong talent outcomes for people with disabilities. With this recognition, NOD endeavors to shine a light on those employers that are committed to building an inclusive workforce by adopting exemplary employment practices for people with disabilities.

“Congratulations to all the 2021 Leading Disability Employers for creating an inclusive and diverse workplace that allows people with disabilities to be successful,” said NOD President Carol Glazer. “NOD’s mission is to ensure that no ability is wasted, that all Americans, including those of us with disabilities, have an opportunity for enterprise, achievement, and earnings and that corporate America knows how to put our talents to work. These winning organizations have stepped up and are doing just that. We want to applaud their leadership and thank them for their commitment to hiring and retaining people with disabilities.”

The 2021 NOD Leading Disability Employers are:

  • AbbVie
  • Accenture
  • American Heart Association
  • Anthem
  • AT&T
  • Bell Textron
  • Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan
  • Blue Shield of California
  • The Boeing Company
  • Capital One
  • Centene
  • Cerner Corporation
  • Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
  • Comcast NBCUniversal
  • Dow
  • Eli Lilly and Company
  • Endeavors Unlimited
  • EY
  • Financial Industry Regulatory Authority
  • GDIT
  • The Hershey Company
  • Hilton Worldwide
  • Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey
  • HSBC
  • Humana
  • Huntington Bank
  • Idaho National Laboratory
  • Independence Care System
  • Kaiser Permanente
  • KeyBank
  • KPMG U.S.
  • Leidos
  • Level Access
  • Lockheed Martin
  • L’Oréal USA
  • M&T Bank
  • Marriott International
  • Martinsburg Veterans Affairs Medical Center
  • Mayo Clinic
  • National Grid USA
  • National Security Agency
  • Nautilus Hyosung America
  • New Editions Consulting
  • New York Life
  • Northrop Grumman
  • PRIDE Industries
  • Prudential Financial
  • PSEG
  • Puerto Rico Industries for the Blind
  • PwC
  • Randstad US
  • Reed Smith
  • RespectAbility
  • SEI
  • Skookum Contract Services
  • Sodexo
  • Sony Corporation of America
  • TD Bank
  • TIAA
  • T-Mobile, USA
  • U.S. Bank
  • United Airlines
  • Unum Group
  • The Viscardi Center
  • W.W. Grainger, Inc.
  • WeCo Accessibility Services
  • Wells Fargo & Company

The announcement was made before an audience of over seven hundred diversity and inclusion leaders from global companies at NOD’s two-hour virtual Forum. Academy Award winner Marlee Matlin kicked off the event with an inspiring keynote address, while comedian and actress Santina Muha served up glitz and glamour as the emcee. An executive panel discussion, featuring DiversityInc CEO Carolynn Johnson, Hilton CEO Christopher J. Nassetta, and Eli Lilly & Company CEO David A. Ricks, addressed emerging workforce challenges in the COVID era and was moderated by Rhonda Nesmith Crichlow, Senior Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer, Charter Communications and NOD board member. The impactful discussion examined new opportunities the global pandemic has afforded employees with disabilities, including remote working, increased digital accessibility, better access to mental health programs and more flexibility.


About the NOD Leading Disability Employer Seal + Employment Tracker

The NOD Leading Disability Employer Seal is a selective award given to companies demonstrating positive outcomes in recruiting, hiring, retaining and advancing people with disabilities in their workforces. To see current and past winners of the NOD Leading Disability Employer seal, visit www.NOD.org/seal.

Winners are determined based on data provided by companies on the NOD Employment Tracker™, the only assessment tool available that focuses on the workforce, to help companies evaluate their disability inclusion policies and practices. Organizations wanting to compete for the NOD Leading Disability Employer Seal voluntarily opt in to be considered. Those companies’ responses are scored, taking into account both disability employment practices and performance. Scoring prioritizes practices that are associated with increased disability employment outcomes over time, and companies receive additional points based on the percentage of people with disabilities in their workforce. At NOD’s Annual Forum, the cohort of winners are revealed by name; no specific scoring or ranking is disclosed.

To be considered for the 2022 NOD Leading Disability Employer Seal, companies must complete the annual Employment Tracker survey during the qualifying window. Sign up to be notified when the 2022 Employment Tracker opens this November.

 

About National Organization on Disability (NOD)

The National Organization on Disability (NOD) is a private, non-profit organization that seeks to increase employment opportunities for the millions of working age Americans with disabilities who are not employed. To achieve this goal, NOD offers a suite of employment solutions, tailored to meet leading companies’ workforce needs. NOD has helped some of the world’s most recognized brands be more competitive in today’s global economy by building or enriching their disability inclusion programs. For more information about NOD and how its professional services, Leadership Council and Employment Tracker can help your business, visit www.NOD.org.

NOD Annual Forum Brings Together Global CEOs, Academy Award Winner Marlee Matlin And Policy Influencers To Reimagine The Future Of The Workplace For All

CEOS SAY FLEXIBILITY, EMPATHY, AND IMAGINATION KEY DRIVERS FOR THE FUTURE

NEW YORK, NY (September 30, 2021) – Today, hundreds of diversity and inclusion leaders from global companies attended the National Organization on Disability’s (NOD) Annual Forum. Academy Award winner Marlee Matlin kicked off the two-hour virtual showcase entitled, “Leadership Council Forum: Disability Inclusion in the Next Normal” with an inspiring keynote address.  Emceed by actress Santina Muha, the Forum addressed the challenges that business leaders continue to face in a shifting economy and post-COVID era as they prepare to bring employees back to the office or continue providing a remote work environment. It also unpacked the opportunities the global pandemic has afforded employees with disabilities as it relates to digital accessibility, mental health programs and better workplace flexibility. Presenting sponsors of the Forum are Prudential Financial and T-Mobile USA.

“The workplace will be fundamentally reshaped as a result of COVID-19, which means organizations must reimagine and reform their current structure in order to survive and succeed in the post-COVID era,” said NOD President Carol Glazer. “This won’t be easy, but I believe that the sharp focus on inequities this time, will provide greater opportunities for CEOs to be heard and be part of lasting positive change. It’s important everyone is at the table, that everyone is included moving forward. In the case of people with disabilities, we need to make sure we provide accessibility and accommodations so that everyone can be successful. I am proud to have our Corporate Leadership Council partners, Board members and other business leaders with us today. They are truly setting the standard on how to build diverse and inclusive workplaces for all.”

The segment, moderated by Rhonda Nesmith Crichlow, senior vice president and chief diversity office for Charter Communications and NOD board member, featured an impactful panel discussion with DiversityInc CEO Carolynn Johnson, Hilton CEO Christopher J. Nassetta, and Eli Lilly CEO David A. Ricks. The discussion hit on important topics such as leadership lessons learned during the pandemic, employee recruitment and retention, and the need for all employers to stay flexible and display empathy.  The CEOs also shared the need to continue to reimagine what the next normal is for the workplace for individuals with seen and unseen disabilities.

“During the last 18 months, we have witnessed business leaders steer their companies through a global pandemic while building more diverse and inclusive workplaces,” said Carolynn Johnson, CEO of DiversityInc.  “However, there is still more work to be done. Only 25 percent of the five million people with disabilities that hold a college degree have a job. If we have learned anything from this pandemic it is that companies can pivot, provide the digital accessibility tools for remote work, be more flexible and have empathy as we continue to navigate these unchartered waters.”

In addition, NOD President Carol Glazer presented three distinguished awards to the following honorees:

  • For the second year in a row, Kessler Foundation, a pillar in the disability community for its philanthropic support, received the Alan A. Reich Award for its exceptional contributions in disability inclusion.  From research and philanthropy to finding new ways for people to overcome great mobility challenges, the Foundations’ impact on society is inestimable. This award, named in honor of NOD’s founder who helped spark a movement to ensure people with disabilities were represented equally in all aspects of life, is given to an established leader who is advancing disability rights.  Accepting on behalf of the Foundation was Elaine E. Katz, Senior Vice President of Grants & Communications.
  • UPS, one of the most respected brands in the world, received the Charles F. Dey Award for their commitment to a workforce of inclusion, and in fact, was one of the first companies to take that goal seriously.  Their good work and support of long-term grant funding has made a significant difference for organizations. Nicole Clifton, Social Impact and The UPS Foundation President accepted the award on behalf of UPS.
  • Robert David Hall, acclaimed actor, role model and disability advocate, received the NOD Lifetime Achievement Award for his tenacity and powerful advocacy for people with disabilities.  He is the longest serving NOD board member and continues to make significant contributions for actors with disabilities and for the disability community, as a whole.  Robert David Hall was present to accept his Lifetime Achievement Award.

Sixy-seven organizations were honored as the 2021 NOD Leading Disability Employers for their exemplary hiring and employment practices for people with disabilities. Now in its seventh year, the NOD Leading Disability Employer Seal is awarded to the top performers on NOD’s Disability Employment Tracker, a free and confidential assessment that benchmarks companies’ disability inclusion programs.

Glazer added, “Congratulations to all of today’s award winners for creating an inclusive workplace that allows people with disabilities to be successful. NOD’s mission is to ensure that no ability is wasted, and that all Americans, especially those of us with disabilities, have an opportunity for enterprise, achievement and earnings; and that corporate America knows how to put our talents to work.”

Other Forum sponsors included: Platinum sponsor Charter Communications; Gold Sponsor Toyota Motors North America; Silver sponsor: The Coca-Cola Company; Bronze sponsors: Cox, General Motors, Kaiser Permanente, Kessler Foundation, Northrop Grumman, PSEG, Randstad and Wells Fargo.

 


About the Leading Disability Employer Seal + Disability Employment Tracker

To see current and past winners of the NOD Leading Disability Employer seal, visit www.NOD.org/seal.

To be considered for the 2022 NOD Leading Disability Employer seal, companies must complete the free and confidential Disability Employment Tracker assessment during the qualifying window. For more information and to sign up, visit www.NOD.org/tracker.

About National Organization on Disability (NOD)

The National Organization on Disability (NOD) is a private, non-profit organization that seeks to increase employment opportunities for the 80-percent of working age Americans with disabilities who are not employed. To achieve this goal, NOD offers a suite of employment solutions, tailored to meet leading companies’ workforce needs. NOD has helped some of the world’s most recognized brands be more competitive in today’s global economy by building or enriching their disability inclusion programs. For more information about NOD and how its professional services, Corporate Leadership Council and Disability Employment Tracker™ can help your business, visit www.NOD.org.

NOD SELECTED TO PARTNER WITH RUTGERS, SYRACUSE AND HARVARD UNIVERSITIES ON MAJOR DISABILITY EMPLOYMENT RESEARCH INITIATIVE

National study to examine how reshaping policies could help increase employment for people with disabilities and make it easier for them to advance their careers

NEW YORK (Sept. 30, 2021) – National Organization on Disability (NOD) President Carol Glazer today announced that, following a competitive process, NOD has been selected to partner with researchers from Rutgers, Syracuse and Harvard Universities to produce new scientifically rigorous and scalable data and evidence to meaningfully increase the employment of people with disabilities. A branch of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has established a Rehabilitation Research and Training Center (RRTC) at Rutgers to study how reshaping employer policies could make it easier for people with disabilities to advance their careers.

Supported by $4.3 million over five years, the RRTC will bring together the Rutgers Program for Disability Research in the School of Management and Labor Relations, Rutgers Business School, Syracuse University, Harvard University and NOD. Disability:IN and Bender Consulting also will participate in the research project. Today’s announcement comes as the disability community prepares to celebrate National Disability Employment Awareness Month beginning October 1.

“For nearly 40 years, the National Organization on Disability has worked to advance employment opportunities for people with disabilities, through our work directly with leading employers and also through research,” said Glazer. “This new partnership working with these top universities will allow us to take that research to an entirely new level by providing a robust basis for understanding the causality underlying the relationship between disability practices and employment outcomes for people with disabilities.”

Over the next five years, the RRTC will design and implement a series of studies, using quasi-experimental and randomized control trials. This will provide valid, reliable and scalable metrics as to employment practices for people with disabilities across the employment life cycle, with particular consideration of post-COVID pandemic “new normal” business practices facing American businesses, their job applicants and new hires.

“The National Organization on Disability could not be more proud to join these distinguished partners to undertake this research that arrives at just the right time,” added Glazer. “Through the RRTC we will be able to better understand the pandemic’s impact on hiring decisions and provide employers access to new and practical knowledge that will lead to innovative paths to employment for people with disabilities with measurable outcomes.”

“The employment rate of people with disabilities has remained far too low, both before and during the pandemic,” said Distinguished Professor Douglas Kruse, co-director of the Rutgers Program for Disability Research in the School of Management and Labor Relations. “The collaboration with NOD is an exciting and unprecedented approach to develop solid evidence-based data on employer practices that can improve disability employment outcomes and help companies make use of underutilized human resources.”


About National Organization on Disability (NOD)

The National Organization on Disability (NOD) is a private, non-profit organization that seeks to increase employment opportunities for the 80-percent of working age Americans with disabilities who are not employed. To achieve this goal, NOD offers a suite of employment solutions, tailored to meet leading companies’ workforce needs. NOD has helped some of the world’s most recognized brands be more competitive in today’s global economy by building or enriching their disability inclusion programs. For more information about NOD and how its professional services, Leadership Council and Employment Tracker™ can help your business, visit www.NOD.org.

Media Contact:

Steve Aaron | SRA Communications | steve@sracommunications.com | 717-554-8614

WATCH: NOD Chairman Gov. Tom Ridge Commemorates 20th Anniversary of 9/11

Tom Ridge: The heroes of Flight 93 ran toward danger to save the lives of others

At our country’s worst moment, we survived on a steady diet of kindness, generosity and compassion.

Tom Ridge, Opinion contributor

Twenty years have passed since the terror attacks of Sept. 11. It’s a milestone to be sure. But no amount of time can fade my memories of that day.

What I remember most about 9/11 is stepping off the helicopter at Shanksville, Penn. – and being met by the brutal sound of silence. Emergency personnel searched the fields. Ambulances were at the ready. Rescue workers wanted someone to save.

But the passengers and crew of Flight 93 – 40 heroes strong – were the first, first responders on the scene.

They had already run toward the danger. They had already taken up the battle. And they were already in the arms of God.

A wonderful group called Friends of Flight 93 National Memorial has created a Heroes Award in their honor so their story is never forgotten. Could anything be more appropriate?

Above a Pennsylvania field, and the Pentagon’s stone and the once-towering World Trade Center, we lost nearly 3,000 souls from more than 80 nations. We lost them too terribly and too soon.

And yet, despite the weight of pain and anguish on our shoulders, we pulled together.

Do you remember? Some of you brought foil-covered plates of food to firefighters. Others held candlelight vigils in cities, large and small. Stores ran out of flags. Schools and communities raised money for grieving families. On the steps of the Capitol, members of Congress sang “God Bless America.”

Visitors come together during the night illumination at the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, Penn.

At our country’s worst moment, we survived on a steady diet of kindness, generosity and compassion. You may not find those words in any national security plan. But I can assure you – those concepts are just as critical to our national resilience as any component of national defense.

News can be overwhelming

I know the country seems fractured at the moment. And that the daily news headlines seem too much to bear. Some of you have told me you’re feeling overwhelmed by the challenges we face and uncertain about our ability to meet them.

But I would ask you to remember: Our shared values, our shared responsibility to one another and the country we all cherish – that’s been the hallmark of the American story for the past 20 years, for the past 245 years.

Even in these past 20 months, doctors, nurses, teachers, grocery clerks, truck drivers, people everywhere, have pulled together to keep our economy moving, our students learning and all of us healthy and safe.

We are a nation of more than 333 million people – of many colors and cultures, of many religions and political beliefs. But do you remember? We’re also a nation of Rosie the Riveters. Of Live Aid concerts and charity telethons, community bake sales and clothing drives. We’re the hearts and billfolds that open daily for the vulnerable among us – our elderly neighbors, the hungry, the homeless, victims of hurricanes and earthquakes.

That’s who we are. That’s in America’s DNA.

Common humanity unites us

We know that our humanity toward one another is our saving grace. We know this – not because we were always good to each other in the past, or because we’ve always been a truly United States.

We know it because, at times, we’ve strayed from that humanity, that empathy and that unity. We’ve learned from the consequences of our mistakes that America is not perfect – so we try harder and strive to be a more perfect union.

The late Sen. John McCain was a dear friend of mine for decades. “Do not despair of our present difficulties,” he said in his farewell message, “but believe always in the promise and greatness of America, because nothing is inevitable.”

John took nothing for granted. He fought every day of his life for the greater good. For the country he loved. For the cause he believed in most – service above self.

I’m profoundly grateful for the opportunities I was given to serve my country. From soldier to secretary, I’ve seen America on its worst days and its best. I’ve seen people give all they had to give. And I’ll never forget it.

I’ll never forget the silence on a Pennsylvania field one September morning.

Or the sacrifice of 40 heroes strong.

I’ll never forget all of those we lost 20 years ago. Too terribly and too soon.

May we keep their memories close – as well as each other.


Tom Ridge was governor of Pennsylvania on 9/11. He later served as the first U.S. secretary of Homeland Security.

Could the lessons of the pandemic be a boon to workers with disabilities?

Working from home has proved liberating for many workers with disabilities, and many hope the flexibility of work during the pandemic have staying power. shironosov via Getty Images/NPR
Female freelance programmer in modern headphones sitting in wheelchair and using computers while coding web game at home

August 26, 2021 | Hosted by David Brancaccio

Listen to the interview

Before the pandemic, Britney Wilson’s daily commute from Brooklyn to Manhattan took her two hours. She has cerebral palsy, and uses arm crutches and a motorized scooter to get around. Her subway stop isn’t accessible, and she has to specially arrange to take a paratransit bus. Just this week, she did the commute again for the first time in nearly two years. She said it was an annoying reality check.

“I was just like, ‘Oh, okay. Back to this again, here we go again,’” Wilson said.

More than 61 million Americans live with disabilities, and many of them have been asking for more flexible work arrangements for decades. Now, as employers contemplate a return to the office, and re-think workplaces, there’s an opportunity to make offices, both virtual and in-person, more accessible.

“We don’t want a ‘back to normal.’ Normal was was never enough,” said Maria Town, president and CEO of the American Association of People with Disabilities. “I hope that employers are really examining what has worked well during this period of time, and how to continue that.”

Britney Wilson, with the long commute, is director of the Civil Rights and Disability Justice Clinic at New York Law School. She said she likes being there with her students in person, and also likes that she has a flexible schedule, where she’ll be able to work from home sometimes.
“We need to give people what it is they need. If what you need is to come into the office twice a week, and work from home the other three days, you should be able to do that,” said Wilson. “If you don’t need to come into the office at all, then don’t do that.”

The technology companies have adopted to enable remote work has also benefited many people with disabilities. Moeena Das, the chief of staff at the National Organization on Disability, is deaf. Prior to the pandemic, if she was in a meeting, a stenographer also joined to transcribe what people were saying. That took some advance planning. Now, Das uses automatic captioning in Zoom, meaning she can jump on last-minute calls.

“It’s been really incredibly liberating to be in any context and say, ‘Yep, I can hop right in,’” Das said.

Das, who also lip reads, says it’s also good to think about how in-person office policies, such as mask mandates, will affect people with disabilities.

“What might that mean for employees who might have a cognitive disability, or employees who might be deaf?” said Das. “I’m really thinking holistically about how the office is organized.”

One concern is that more virtual interactions will make disabilities less visible in the workplace, said Maria Town of the American Association of People with Disabilities.

“During the pandemic, because people only see me from the bust up, I have to be more explicit about my disability in different ways than I would in an in-person environment,” said Town, who has cerebral palsy.

Town is concerned that remote work, which she believes should definitely be an option, will become the default for disabled people, especially those who require more involved accommodations in the workplace.

“Our motivation and commitment to actually making our physical environments and in-person interactions accessible will be reduced,” said Town.

Given everything we’ve learned during the pandemic, employers have a great opportunity to hire more disabled workers. Of the working age population, only about 30% of disabled Americans are employed.

“Getting back to pre pandemic levels is not enough,” said Taryn Williams, assistant Secretary for Disability Employment Policy at the US Department of Labor.

Plus, employers are missing out on a ton of talent.

“I say all the time, we’re the ultimate innovators,” said Britney Wilson of New York Law School. “Our whole lives are about figuring out how to adjust and to do things, even when they’re not set up for us to do so.”

No judgment, just empathy: How to approach disabilities in a post-COVID era

By CAROL GLAZER | NEW YORK DAILY NEWS, AUG 24, 2021 5:00 AM

The Olympics may be over, but the Paralympics, with its 240 incredible men and women representing the United States, are in high gear. What a proud and thrilling time for our country as we witness our best athletes excel in their sport and, in the best of circumstances, win a medal.

Despite everything going on in the world, the Summer Olympics and the Paralympics give us a sense of belonging and a chance to connect with our family, friends and co-workers as we discuss the most memorable moments.

Simone Biles and Noah Lyles
Simone Biles and Noah Lyles (Getty/Getty Images)

What strikes me as an even bigger moment for our nation was when athletes like gymnast Simone Biles and runner Noah Lyles decided to share their own personal mental illness stories with the world. It was a stark reminder to us all about the pressures these athletes feel every day. Most likely, we will soon see more stories about athletes experiencing anxiety resulting from the added pressures of competition. (According to the International Paralympic Committee, paralympic athletes are likely to experience a range of stressors that will compromise their personal well-being.)

I was diagnosed nearly a decade ago with PTSD, so I know first-hand how difficult it is to say, “I need help” or “I am struggling.” It’s public figures like Biles and Lyles, and former gold medal swimmer Michael Phelps who show real courage and give others the confidence to publicly disclose their mental health issues. They show us there is no shame in that. Phelps even started a foundation that focuses on support for healthy living, and a central component is mental health.

According to Mental Health America, 44 million adults have a mental illness and nearly one in five American adults will have a diagnosable mental health condition in any given year. Unfortunately, those numbers will most likely continue to rise as our country continues to grapple with racial injustice, unemployment and the uncertainty about the future caused by the global pandemic.

As businesses bring people back to the office, they are keenly aware that some employees will have difficulty adjusting to the “next normal” in the workplace, juggling expectations at home and in the office.
Company managers need to keep in mind that they may be supervising “long haulers,” or people who have long-term mental health and physical issues caused by COVID-19. This not only could have an impact on employees but on a business’ work productivity. Anxiety and depression are real, and as a nation, we need to take action and help each other. It may be challenging to deal with the stigma of those mental illnesses, but the consequences of not acting — lost productivity, lost workdays, and in the extreme, suicide — are far greater.

We need to have honest conversations about these issues in the workplace. We need to make sure our colleagues are okay if they seem to be suffering. And we need to train managers, those involved with employee assistance programs and all co-workers in how to spot anxiety and depression and how to help those who seem to be suggesting that they might need help.

The paralympics may be over in a couple of weeks, but let’s not end the important conversation that came out of these international games this year. I urge all of us to not judge others, have empathy and keep helping our friends and family who are suffering from mental illness. We as a country win when everyone knows they can open up about their mental health challenges.

Glazer is president of the National Organization on Disability.

Celebrating NOD’s Chairman Tom Ridge on the 31st Anniversary of the ADA

Pres. George HW Bush smiling while shaking hands with Gov. Tom Ridge

Six years ago NOD Chairman and former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge sat with President George H.W. Bush to discuss the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act at the White House 25 years prior. The conversation was deep and meaningful, and President Bush remarked that it was one of his “proudest accomplishments”.

Today, as we celebrate the 31st anniversary of the ADA, we also celebrate the strength and resilience of our chairman, who as a congressman voted for the passage of the ADA and has dedicated his life to promoting the ADA’s principles of ensuring that every American has a right and an opportunity to participate in our economic progress.

We trust that Gov. Ridge is maintaining the values of optimism, courage in the face of adversity, and generosity of spirit that he taught us at NOD so well, as he continues his recovery from a stroke. All of us across the disability community are thinking of him and wishing him well.

Then Congressman Tom Ridge on stage with Pres. Bush during his term