Steering the Winds of Change: A Summit on Leadership in Business, Academia, the Military, and Government

59 Companies Leading the Way in Hiring Talent with Disabilities Are Honored

National Organization on Disability Event also Featured Actors and Disability Advocates Danny Woodburn (Seinfeld) and Robert David Hall (CSI: Crime Scene Investigation)

NEW YORK (September 26, 2019) – More than 200 diversity and inclusion leaders from companies around the country gathered at the National Organization on Disability’s (NOD) Annual Forum and Dinner, entitled Shifting the Talent Paradigm: Inclusive Culture for a Modern WorkforceSponsored by Lead Partners PwC and Spectrum, the all-day forum explored the best change management tactics that corporate leaders can deploy to create a more diverse and inclusive culture. Senior managers heard from executives and experts on the most effect tools and tactics to create an inclusive culture, as well as the leadership skills and personal attributes needed to lead a culture change.

Later in the evening, an awards dinner was held featuring actors and disability advocates Danny Woodburn (Seinfeld) and Robert David Hall (CSI: Crime Scene Investigation). Civic and business leaders also joined in the celebration, including Gov. Tom Ridge, first Secretary of Homeland Security and NOD Chairman, and DiversityInc’s Chairman and Founder Luke Visconti, who serves as the NOD Vice Chairman.

“Events such as this one hosted by the National Organization on Disability are critical because the subject of diversity and inclusion is often exclusive of people with disabilities,” said Woodburn, who serves as co-vice chair of the SAG-AFTRA People with Disabilities Committee. “This is particularly personal for me and my colleagues in Hollywood, because although people with disabilities make up more than 20 percent of our population, they are still significantly under-represented on television and film. Compounding the problem is the fact that even when characters with disabilities are featured on the small screen, they are far more too often played by actors without disabilities. This creates a 98% unemployment rate in my business, well above the national average of 67% for people with disabilities.”

“Danny and I have worked together for years to support opportunities for actors with disabilities, like us,” said Hall, a longtime NOD board member. “So we are privileged to attend events like this one that recognizes employers who not only embrace hiring people with disabilities, they see it as fundamental to their success. It’s a message we need to amplify in Hollywood.”

Starting a new tradition, NOD honored two individuals with special awards. The Kaitlin A. Geraghty Memorial Prize was given to Deanna Ferrante, a rising student in the University of Massachusetts-Amherst Class of 2020. Named in honor of the late NOD intern who was much admired and missed, this award is bestowed to an up-and-coming disability advocate who shares Kaitlin’s passion for working towards the full inclusion of people with disabilities.

Darren Walker, President of the Ford Foundation, was the inaugural honoree of the Alan A. Reich Award, for enshrining disability inclusion into all of the organization’s operations—from its building accessibility to its grant making. Given to an established leader who is advancing disability rights, this award is 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.

Then, 59 organizations were honored as the 2019 NOD Leading Disability Employers™ for their exemplary hiring and employment practices for people with disabilities. Now in its fifth 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.

“These winning organizations understand that by harnessing the talents of people with disabilities, they reap the benefits of a more diverse and more productive workforce,” said NOD Chairman Governor Tom Ridge. “The preeminent challenge before us is to ensure that people with disabilities enjoy full opportunity for employment, enterprise and earnings, and that employers know how to put their talents to work. These 59 organizations certainly have demonstrated they are doing just that, and we applaud their leadership and thank them for their commitment to hiring people with disabilities.”

About the Leading Disability Employer Seal™ + Disability Employment Tracker

To see current and past winners of the NOD Leading Disability Employer seal, visit

To be considered for the 2020 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

“Seinfeld” actor’s mission to raise awareness about disability rights

Sept. 26, 2019 – Washington, D.C. – Danny Woodburn shared his mission to raise awareness for inclusion and understanding of people with disabilities.  Later in the day Woodburn will host NOD’s Annual Forum + Dinner, where the 2019 NOD Leading Disability Employers™ will be recognized for their exemplary hiring and employment practices for people with disabilities. On Good Day DC, Woodburn shared a few of the local employers that earned the title.

Remembering Marca Bristo (1953-2019)

The National Organization on Disability joins the disability community in mourning the loss of Marca Bristo, a pioneer and passionate advocate for disability rights, who passed away last week after a battle with cancer. She was 66. Ms. Bristo is survived by her husband, Robert Kettlewell, their two children, and a grandchild.

Marca Bristo speaking at a White House event in 2010 marking the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act
Marca Bristo speaking at a White House event in 2010 | Charles Dharapak/Associated Press

Few individuals leave behind marks so indelible. From helping to craft and pass the Americans with Disabilities Act, to reshaping the city of Chicago’s disability policies and serving as an advisor to President Obama’s Administration, Ms. Bristo was truly a force for positive change. She traveled the world many times over in her motorized wheelchair promoting the independent living movement, which she helped found, advancing the rights and well-being of people with disabilities everywhere.

To a most ardent champion for persons with disabilities, the National Organization on Disability says, simply, thank you for your service—your legacy lives on. (June 23, 1953 – September 8, 2019)


Full Obituary via the New York Times

by Glenn Rifkin (photo courtesy of Charles Dharapak/Associated Press)

Marca Bristo, Influential Advocate for the Disabled, Dies at 66

Paralyzed in an accident at 23, she devoted her life to changing perceptions of the disabled and was a key player in passing the Americans With Disabilities Act.

When she was 23, Marca Bristo, a nurse in Chicago, was sitting with a friend on the shore of Lake Michigan. Her friend’s dog accidentally knocked a prized pair of Ms. Bristo’s shoes into the water and, without a second thought, she dived in to retrieve them.

Striking her head, she broke her neck and was paralyzed from the chest down. In that instant, Ms. Bristo’s life changed forever in ways she could never have anticipated. She lost her job, her health insurance, could no longer use public transportation and had no access to many public places.

But rather than dwell on her misfortune, she became a powerful advocate for people with disabilities, spending her life working to change perceptions and the rules in a world that had traditionally ignored the needs of the disabled. She was a key player in the passage of the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990, which outlawed discrimination against the nearly 50 million Americans with disabilities.

After a long battle with cancer, Ms. Bristo died on Sunday at 66 in her home in Chicago. Her death was confirmed by her husband, J. Robert Kettlewell.

Her passion reflected her own life philosophy; she refused to allow her disability to constrain her. She was married for 32 years to Mr. Kettlewell and they had two children. She recently became a grandmother.

“She focused on her ability, not on her disability,” said Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser to President Barack Obama, who met Ms. Bristo in Chicago in the mid-1990s and later made her an adviser to the Obama administration. “There wasn’t a policy decision we made over those eight years that would affect the lives of people with disabilities, without consulting Marca,” Ms. Jarrett said in an interview for this obituary on Saturday.

In 1980, Ms. Bristo founded Access Living in Chicago, a nonprofit that promoted independent living for the disabled.

Access Living reshaped Chicago’s landscape for the disabled and became a model for cities across the country, and from that, Ms. Bristo founded the National Council on Independent Living, which she led for many years.

“Marca Bristo’s trailblazing leadership and bold strategic vision secured historic progress for every American with a disability and their families,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement. “With Marca’s passing, our nation has lost an extraordinary champion for the rights of people with disabilities.”

Her signature achievement was helping to pass the A.D.A. She was a protégée of Justin Dart Jr., vice chair of the National Council on Disability, and someone Ms. Bristo referred to as the “Martin Luther King of the disability rights movement” in a 2015 blog celebrating the 25th anniversary of the A.D.A.’s passage. They worked closely and she made pointed suggestions for ways to improve the legislation.

“My husband spotted her to be a future leader,” Yoshiko Dart said of Mr. Dart, who died in 2002. “She had principle and passion and wasn’t afraid of saying things to people. She insisted on justice for all types of people.”

In the 1980s, as a member of United States Task Force on the Rights and Empowerment of Americans With Disabilities, she connected with then-Congressman Tony Coelho of California, who, along with Senator Lowell Weicker of Connecticut, introduced the original A.D.A. bill to the 100th Congress in 1988. In her role, Ms. Bristo helped draft and amend the bill that eventually made its way to the president’s desk two years later.

“She was one of the strongest advocates, from the grass-roots side,” Mr. Coelho said in an interview on Saturday. “To a great extent, without the grass-roots effort, we wouldn’t have gotten the A.D.A.” Not content with the passage of the bill, Ms. Bristo spent the rest of her life making sure it was consistently implemented.

Marcia Lynn Bristo was born on June 23, 1953, in Albany, N.Y., to Earl Clayton Bristo and Dorothy Madeline Bristo. She spent her childhood on a family farm, along with her older brother, Paul, and sister, Gail, in Castleton, N.Y. before the family moved to West Winfield, N.Y.


She spent her senior year of high school in the Philippines and went to Beloit College in Wisconsin in 1971. At freshman orientation, an upperclassman nicknamed her Marca and the name stuck. She got her nursing degree from the Rush University College of Nursing in Chicago in 1976, intending to be a midwife, and worked at Northwestern Medicine Prentice Women’s Hospital in the labor and delivery unit.

She met Mr. Kettlewell in 1986 when he was chief of staff for the Illinois congresswoman Cardiss Collins, and the couple married in 1988. She gave birth to a son, Samuel, and a daughter, Madeline. Her granddaughter was born in July. They, and her sister, Gail Bristo Smith, survive her.

After her accident, Ms. Bristo became acutely aware of the impediments she would face. “People immediately treated me differently because of my wheelchair,” she wrote in a 2015 Chicago Tribune column. “In spite of my activist spirit and the historical civil rights context in which I was raised, I was on my own to cope with this new reality.”

When she later attended a conference on disability in Berkeley, Calif., she got a glimpse of an environment with a completely different attitude toward people with disabilities. The city, with a history of activism, had curb cuts, accessible buildings and bathrooms, and the buses had wheelchair lifts.

“No longer did I see curbs or stairs or inaccessible buses and bathrooms as a problem around which I needed to navigate,” she wrote. “Rather, I saw them as examples of societal discrimination — and felt a responsibility to get involved to help people with disabilities, in Illinois and beyond.”

She became part of a growing movement. “This ragtag army of people who couldn’t see, hear, walk and talk did what everyone said couldn’t be done,” she said. “We passed the most comprehensive civil rights law since the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.”

Edward M. Kennedy Jr., son of the late Massachusetts senator and currently the chairman of the American Association of People With Disabilities, met Ms. Bristo in the mid-1980s and said “she had an immediate impact on me.”


Mr. Kennedy, a former state senator in Connecticut, lost a leg to cancer in 1973, when he was 12. “She reframed the disability experience as a civil rights issue, as opposed to a medical issue,” Mr. Kennedy said on Saturday. “She was one of the pioneers trying to change the way people with disabilities thought about our circumstances. She used to talk about what she called ‘the internalization of oppression’ that existed in other civil rights struggles.”

“She was a force of nature,” Mr. Kennedy added. “In both her personal life and political life, she was a role model for millions of people with disabilities in our country.”

Ever the advocate, in the days before her death, Ms. Bristo received a phone call from Ms. Pelosi. According to her husband, the Speaker wished her well and said “I wish there was something I could do,” to which Ms. Bristo quickly replied: “You can. Move the Disability Integration Act to committee and to a floor vote.”

Texas A&M Launches State’s First Inclusive 4-Year College Program for Students with Disabilities

by Char Adams (via People Magazine)

Texas A&M University is opening the door to higher education for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities — making history as the first program of its kind in the state.

The school has vowed to help students with disabilities realize their dreams of becoming Aggies with a four-year post-secondary education program specifically designed to support them, the public university announced in a statement. The Aggie ACHIEVE program will begin this fall, with four students taking courses focused on independent living, career development and field specialization.

“This is not meant to be a place to come get the college experience and then go back to what you were doing before,” said Dr. Carly Gilson, assistant professor of special education in Texas A&M’s College of Education & Human Development. “The intention of this program is to provide a rigorous education, academics and employment experience that will prepare these young adults to go out and work in the community in a job they are interested in that matches their strengths.”

Texas A&M announced its new 4yr program for students with disabilities.

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.


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

See more video by joining the Corporate Leadership Council. Current members can view in the Members’ Only Portal.

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.”

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.

Don’t miss out on these learning and networking events featuring senior leaders and industry innovators. Join the Corporate Leadership Council today.

Welcome to the NOD Corporate Leadership Council site where members enjoy exclusive access to leading disability inclusion resources, tools and events.

Don’t have a username and password? Check to see if your company is a NOD Corporate Leadership Council member and learn more about joining.

Forgot your password or username? Click Here

Forgot Your Password?

To receive your password by email, please enter your registered email address. Need assistance? Contact