Why a separate Paralympics should end and a unified Olympic Games should begin

By Charles Catherine, Opinion contributor

In a pre-pandemic world we all would be talking about the joy and heartache that go with watching the world’s best athletes compete.

Many people are crushed that the Olympic Games are postponed for a year. For me, it is the Paralympic Games, originally scheduled to begin Aug. 24, that filled me with anticipation and now leaves me deflated.

I am blind and a Paralympic hopeful, training for years to qualify for the Tokyo games. I won’t know for some time if I make the team because the qualifying races were canceled because of COVID-19.

As I have time to reflect on the games, I can’t help but wonder if we really need this event. In some ways this separate competition feels like a sideshow, a reflection of a painful reality: we still think of disability as something other.

I have Paralympian friends who are world record holders and gold medalists, but they are not household names, and they often struggle even to find jobs.

The question I ask myself is whether it is time to merge the Paralympic and Olympic Games? Leading Paralympians, including six-time gold medalist David Weir, support the idea. In a time of so much discussion about equality, is it time to end the segregation of disabled athletes from their Olympic peers?

Logistics are an obstacle

There is a logistical argument against it. If we combine the two events, we would have 15,000 athletes and need a much larger Olympic village. Plus, the event would take longer to complete. Paradoxically, there would need to be a plan so that the Paralympics would not lose exposure. Otherwise, It is likely few if any disability events would enjoy prime time programming.

This would need to be a serious consideration. It makes me think of what André Malraux, activist and writer from my home country of France, said: “Without an audience, there are no heroes.”

Sponsors of the Olympics might say there is not the same interest in watching the games of  athletes with disabilities from around the world. I say they are wrong.

There is great interest in the games. The London 2012 Paralympics were a financial success. Organizers sold 2.72 million tickets, and 11.2 million people watched Channel 4 (the official broadcaster of the event in the UK) during its broadcast of the Paralympic opening ceremony. It was the channel’s biggest audience in a decade.

The Rio 2016 Paralympics numbers were not as great, but still sold 1.8 million tickets, which was slightly better than in Beijing in 2008 (1.7 million). These ticket sales show there is a market for this event, and potential sponsors know that with an estimated population of 1.3 billion worldwide, people with disabilities constitute an emerging market the size of China.

The International Olympic Committee, which represents able-bodied athletes, and the International Paralympic Committee have signed a memorandum of understanding that extends their cooperation to 2032, which could be altered if both organizations had the temerity to do so.

Let’s continue to champion inclusion

If we could find ways to overcome these obstacles, and organize an inclusive Olympic Games, it would send a powerful message.

Let’s not forget that when women joined the Olympics there needed to be changes, additional accommodations and more time allotted to the games. At the 1948 London Olympics for instance, there were only 4,104 athletes. Holding games with 11,238 athletes (as in Rio in 2016) would have seemed impossible.

When I compete in World Cup races, our event is usually right before the able-body athletes race. I get to socialize with my idols, experience them racing. In those precious moments, I feel like I am truly part of the national team, an elite athlete despite my disability. I believe that what is possible at the World Cup is also possible at the Olympics.

When we look back, we can see long historical forces leading us toward more inclusive societies; the Olympic Games are a window into this world. The inclusion of women, ethnic minorities and LGBTQ athletes teaches us something we can learn about athletes with disabilities.

Gertrude Ederle, Jesse Owens and Matthew Mitcham were all trailblazers in their own way. Tomorrow the likes of Paralympic athletes Melissa Stockwell, David Brown and Moran Samuel might have a chance to be part of this history. All they need is an opportunity.


Charles Catherine is special assistant to the president of the National Organization on Disability.

This article was originally published in USA Today.

VIDEO: Charter Communications’ Chairman and CEO Tom Rutledge Celebrates the ADA at 30

To celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, members of the NOD Corporate Leadership Council and sponsors of our Look Closer awareness campaign are sharing messages from their chief executive officers discussing why disability inclusion matters to their organizations.

To mark this historic milestone, hear from Charter Communications’ Chairman and CEO Tom Rutledge about how the ADA has helped our nation break down barriers.

Tom Rutledge, Charter Communications’ Chairman and CEO shares how disability inclusion can change lives. That’s why Charter is committed to fostering a welcoming workplace where employees with disabilities can succeed and grow, and providing accessible products and services that exceed customer expectations.


Charter Communications is a valued member of the NOD Corporate Leadership Council and a sponsor of our Look Closer awareness campaign. In April 2020, NOD welcomed Rhonda Crichlow, Senior Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer at Charter Communications, as the newest member of our board of directors.

Looking Back at NOD’s Networking Roundtable | “Driving Innovation through ERGs”

RECAPPING: DRIVING INNOVATION THROUGH EMPLOYEE RESOURCE GROUPS
April 4th, 2019 | Hosted by L’Oréal USA

Today, 90 percent of the country’s Fortune 500 companies have ERGs. Many of these groups were founded as a response to discrimination, but in recent years, these groups have been increasingly recognized for their valuable contributions they bring to their employers, especially with regards to diversifying talent streams.

The NOD Corporate Leadership Council‘s Networking Roundtable, Driving Innovation through Employee Resource Groups, provided an in-depth look at businesses excelling at building disability inclusive cultures through their Employee Resource/Affinity Groups (ERGs/AGs).

  • The event, moderated by Karen Brown, featured opening remarks from NOD’s Carol Glazer, while L’Oréal USA’s Frédéric Rozé discussed his company’s commitment to workplace disability inclusion.
  • DiversityInc’s Shane Nelson dove into case studies from companies activating their ERGs to target new business opportunities.
  • Panelists, Cassie Liverance of L’Oréal, Laura Bailey from Capital One, John Sasso of EY, and Stephanie Magner-Tripp from New York Life, gave real life examples of how their companies’ ERGs are changing attitudes and actions from the inside.
  • Closing remarks were shared by L’Oréal USA’s Angela Guy and NOD’s Carol Glazer.

 

Welcome remarks by NOD President Carol Glazer

Welcome remarks by L’Oréal USA President & CEO Frédéric Rozé

Corporate Leadership Council Members: See more video and access exclusive resources in the Members’ Only Portal.

Not a member of the Council? Find out about the many benefits of joining today!

 

 

NOD Convening Discusses Activating Employee Resource Groups to Build Disability Inclusive Workplaces

L’Oréal USA Hosted the Networking Roundtable for the NOD Corporate Leadership Council, a Membership Group Promoting Best Practices in Disability Employment

NEW YORK (APRIL 5, 2019) – Last evening, the National Organization on Disability (NOD) convened its Corporate Leadership Council, a membership body comprised of 50+ companies committed to promoting disability inclusive workplaces, for a Networking Roundtable hosted by L’Oréal USA. The forward-thinking event, Driving Innovation through Employee Resource Groups, provided an in-depth look at businesses excelling at building disability inclusive cultures through their Employee Resource/Affinity Groups (ERGs/AGs). Today, 90 percent of the country’s Fortune 500 companies have ERGs. Many of these groups were founded as a response to discrimination, but in recent years, these groups have been increasingly recognized for their valuable contributions they bring to their employers, especially with regards to diversifying talent streams.

L’Oréal USA including President & CEO, Frédéric Rozé
L’Oréal USA including President & CEO, Frédéric Rozé

The evening featured speakers from L’Oréal USA including President & CEO, Frédéric Rozé, as well as Senior Vice President, Diversity and Inclusion, Angela Guy. In addition, there was a lively panel discussion featuring representatives from L’Oréal USA, Capital One, EY, and New York Life. Shane Nelson from DiversityInc also presented on best practices of ERGs.

Panelists seated on a stage, before a projected screen.
Panelists seated on stage

“I am thrilled that our Corporate Leadership Council members could come together for this exciting networking program,” said National Organization on Disability President Carol Glazer. “Disability ERGs are important for pushing employers to be more inclusive of people with disabilities, and they can also help businesses reach the $490 billion disability consumer market and the millions of unemployed people with disabilities in the communities in which we live, work and serve.”

Attendees seated in rows listening to panel
Attendees seated in rows listening to panel

“At L’Oréal, we believe that all abilities are beautiful, and while we have a lot more work to do, our results show that we are, indeed, ‘breaking the silence’ around disability 365 days a year,” said Angela Guy, Senior Vice President of Diversity & Inclusion at L’Oréal USA. “The National Organization on Disability helps to ensure that we’re all on the right path in meeting the needs of employees with disabilities, and that we’re leveraging the innovation, talent and creativity of individuals with disabilities in the workplace.”

DiversityInc's Shane Nelson + D&I Executive Karen Brown
DiversityInc’s Shane Nelson + D&I Executive Karen Brown

Glazer added, “We are grateful for the Corporate Leadership Council, the very heart of the National Organization on Disability. Our corporate partners distinguish themselves everyday as leaders in diversity and inclusion, and employers of choice for people with disabilities.”

Elaine Perez-Bell, ADP + Rachel Noiseux from Stanley Black & Decker
Elaine Perez-Bell, ADP + Rachel Noiseux from Stanley Black & Decker

Don’t Miss the next Corporate Leadership Council event! June 13, New York City | Executive Luncheon: Closing the ‘Trust Gap’. Not a member of the Corporate Leadership Council? Find out about the many benefits of joining today!

HR’s Guide to Interacting with Employees of All Abilities

“It’s a matter of becoming more aware of the people you’re with,” Felicia Nursmen of the National Organization on Disability said during a webinar.

AUTHOR Katie Clarey | PUBLISHED Feb. 13, 2019

Humans tend to form perceptions about people with disabilities based on their interactions with others who have disabilities, according to Felicia Nursmen, managing director of employer services at the National Organization on Disability. While experience can sometimes lend wisdom later on, it can also feed unconscious biases, Nursmen told attendees listening to a webinar she hosted Tuesday afternoon. Once those biases are in place, they may complicate relationships between people with and without disabilities, specifically in a professional context.

For the 96% of attendees who said they know someone who has a disability, this means they may have a little work to do in identifying their prejudices and correcting any misinformation. Most of the workforce in the U.S. will be in need of this, too, if that statistic holds up among the general population. To deal with these biases, it’s best to take a three-pronged approach, Nursmen recommended. “Recognize your own bias. Focus on people. And increase your exposure to bias,” she said. “What’s most important is that we ask the right questions and that we’re having the right conversations.”

Nursmen proposed anyone interacting with colleagues with disabilities take up an attitude of learning. “Don’t stop interacting with people because you’ve made a mistake or because you fear you’re going to make a mistake,” she said. “Learn from it.” From there, professionals can adhere to a couple key rules, add respectful language to their vocabularies and, finally, familiarize themselves with the best ways to interact with people according to the kind of disability they have.

The golden rules

There is one guideline everyone can follow when interacting with a person with a disability, regardless of what kind of disability the person may have: “Always ask before you assist and take the answer,” Nursmen said. “You do need to follow their lead and follow their wishes.” Nursmen said she was walking once with a colleague who had a mobility impairment and he tripped and fell. He said no when she asked if she could help him up, and for good reason — he knew how to get up without hurting himself, something she would have done had she grabbed his arm and tried to tug him up.

People shouldn’t assume they know how to help someone with a disability. They shouldn’t assume they understand someone’s disability, either, Nursmen cautioned attendees. “Never make assumptions,” she said. “It’s never appropriate in the workforce to ask if someone has a disability. It really isn’t our business in the workforce, in the workplace, what is happening with someone personally.”

In terms of compliance, this suggestion takes on more nuance. According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, an employer generally cannot ask someone whether they have a disability or inquire about the nature or severity of a disability. An employer can ask, however, if a person can perform the duties of a job with or without an accommodation and ask him or her to describe or how he or she would do the job.

Watch your language

When talking about about a person with a disability, it’s important not to define them by their disability. “What we tend to focus on now, and this really has been in the last five or 10 years, is using person-first language, which means the person comes before the disability in the description,” Nursmen said. Instead of calling someone a disabled person, say that he or she is a person with a disability.

There are a few exceptions to this rule. In general, people on the autism spectrum prefer identity-first language, according to Nursmen. This is true for people in the Deaf community as well. “We have a very strong and very proud Deaf culture in our country,” Nursmen said. “It is just important to be aware of that and be respectful.”

Nursmen allowed that there are some who will disagree with these guidelines. “We don’t want people to get caught up in the language of it,” she said. What’s more important is to know what not to say. “I don’t know of anyone who has ever had a positive experience being called retarded or a retard. We do not use that language any longer. It really is not acceptable.”

She noted a few more words and phrases to avoid. People have physical disabilities — they’re not “handicapped.” “This one can potentially be one of the most difficult because we still see the handicapped placard and handicapped signs,” she said. In the same vein, people are not “wheelchair-bound” — people use wheelchairs or are wheelchair users. Lastly, people have psychiatric disabilities, not mental illnesses, according to Nursmen.

Learning how to best interact with people with specific disabilities

Many people have difficulty interacting with someone with a disability because of fear, Nursmen said. Knowledge will allow people to overcome that fear. “It’s a matter of becoming more aware of the people you’re with,” Nursmen said. That said, people need to understand how to behave around people who have an array of disabilities. Here are Nursmen’s best tips to interacting with people who are deaf, who are blind, who have mobility impairments, speech impairments and cognitive disabilities or different learning styles.

  • When getting the attention of someone who is deaf or hard of hearing, tap the person on the shoulder, look them in the eye and speak clearly. Keep your hands away from your mouth as you talk. If the person is working with an interpreter, be sure to speak to the person and not the interpreter. If you’re having trouble communicating with someone and no interpreter is available, you can ask to use your phone as a temporary solution.
  • When approaching a person who is blind or visually impaired, make sure to speak as you approach. “Say your name, speaking in a normal tone,” Nursmen said. “If the person has a service dog, allow the dog to do its job.” When walking with that person, you can ask if he or she would like to take your arm. From there, that person will take the lead — follow as directed and give verbal alerts as to obstacles coming your way.
  • When working with someone who has a mobility impairment, make sure to think about accessibility when planning work outings, conference attendances and any other activities. And, Nursmen noted, if a colleague uses a wheelchair, never push it before asking or being asked to do so.
  • When interacting with someone who has a speech impairment, prioritize your own understanding. It may sound counterintuitive, but it’s respectful to the person speaking. “If you do not understand that person, make sure that you ask them to repeat themselves,” Nursmen said. This request communicates to the person that you value what he or she has to say.
  • When collaborating with someone who has a cognitive disability, have patience and be prepared to repeat information you may have already given out. “When completing forms or doing projects or working together on things, be patient, flexible and supportive,” Nursmen said. Try to think of different ways you can communicate, Nursmen suggested. Some people with cognitive disabilities will have no problem completing a task once given instructions depicted by pictures rather than written down on a piece of paper.

Bring NOD’s best-in-class Disability Etiquette and Awareness Training to your workplace. Just contact our Professional Services team at services@nod.org

Read on HR Dive

How To Have A Meaningful Conversation About Disability At Work

Nicole, who co-owns a salon

Nicole, who co-owns a salon in Newton, Massachusetts, says her learning disability is a strength that sets her apart. 

August 22, 2018 | Denise Brodey, Contributor

If you have a disability, you very quickly come to understand that it is an issue most people don’t open up about at work. Sure, talking about your experience with chronic fatigue syndrome, depression or a learning disability such as dyslexia might happen behind closed doors. But in a larger setting? It’s still taboo. To say the silence millions keep each day is stifling is an understatement. Many people describe it as feeling like their true self has been hijacked and replaced, at least during working hours. Hiding a disability does colleagues a disservice, too. Truth is, every time someone speaks up for people with disabilities in the workplace, particularly if they have lived experience, it has the potential to build trust, empathy, and engagement.

Advocates, role models, mentors—whatever the label, I know one thing for sure: the workplace needs many, many more to share their strengths. Unfortunately, only 3.2 percent of employees “self-identify” to their employer if they have an invisible disability, according to a National Organization on Disability study. As for people with visible disabilities advocating in the workplace? Well, you may not see as many as you should because, literally, they aren’t there. In 2017, 18.7 percent of persons with a disability were employed, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported. In contrast, the employment-population ratio for those without a disability was 65.7 percent.

Keep reading to get an idea of how organizations can start a real conversation not just about people with disabilities—but with them—in the workplace:

 — Consider The Value Of Peer Specialists.

Rob Walker, who runs the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health Office of Recovery and Empowerment, says programs that use peer specialists in addition to trained counselors and medical care, have been very successful. He’s hopeful that “younger adults, who seem to be much more accepting of their learning and mental health challenges” and have been offered curriculum on topics of mental health will help end workplace discrimination against people with disabilities. “It’s harder for older adults to admit they need help and you can see a generational divide on this issue,” says Walker. People who are open about their disabilities often become champions of workplace programs. Walker, for instance, talks openly about his diagnosis of bipolar disorder many years ago and says he shares his story often as part of his programming.

— Rethink Your Wellness Program To Make It More Visible Internally.

Some large organizations have been retooling the old ways of assisting employees with mental health issues and creating programs that go beyond telephone consultations or outside referrals for medical issues of concern in the workplace. American Express’s Healthy Minds program is one. “We have been doing this program for a long time. And from the beginning we knew it was key to reach out and educate management about the importance of our mental health programs, says Charles Lattarulo, Ph.D., director of Healthy Minds at American Express. “Through our discussions with senior leaders, they have come to understand how crucial it is that they lead the way in creating a safe, healthy space for our colleagues.” American Express offers on-site face-to-face counseling in addition to traditional services, such as telephone-based employee assistance programs. But it is the internal communication element of the program—asking key players inside the company to recognize and promote the value of destigmatizing mental health issues—that Lattarulo says is crucial. You can find case studies on workplace mental health programs, including the one at American Express, here. 

–Empower Colleagues To Help Each Other.

One way to build trust and open up a conversation is to offer courses such as Mental Health First Aid. The course is an eight-hour immersion in helping someone who may be experiencing a mental health or substance use challenge. Having taken the course, I can say, it’s a long day. But it is time very well spent. I now have it drilled into my mind how to get help for a colleague or friend who appears to be in crisis. A side benefit of taking the course? You’re walking the walk. By setting aside a day to learn about Mental Health First Aid you are showing others this is an issue that really matters to you. Getting the facts straight and sharing them is also empowering. You can learn more about the Americans with Disabilities Act here.

Sharing personal experiences, however, seem to make the most impact. Author Mandy Froehlich’s The Fire Within captures the stories of educators who have gone through trauma and taken strength from what they have learned. She says, “Organizations create a huge disconnect when they say they talk about the value of wellness but don’t show they truly value it.” In education, she told me, the newest thing is to suggest that teachers practice mindfulness.

“That’s just scratching the surface for social-emotional health for teachers who have experienced trauma,” says Froehlich, who is also the director of innovation and technology for a school district in Wisconsin. “We are often afraid of the ramifications of what we tell their colleagues. That’s not how it should be.”

— Talk Often About Your Strengths.

Audrey Bentley, a student at Michigan State University says, “People really do want to give you help if you ask for it.” Her story is one of four documented in Normal Isn’t Real, a short film that shares the experiences of successful people with learning and attention issues. Nicole Vaiani, a master colorist who owns her own salon in Massachusetts, says: “I learn differently. I learn by seeing and doing and it turns out I am better at my job than a lot of other people.” Her differences are her strength and when she talks about it, she isn’t bragging. She’s starting a crucial conversation about her ability, not her disability, which is the key to becoming an effective role model, advocate or mentor. Even if your colleagues don’t recognize it now, the evidence is clear, say economists, that a diverse workforce performs better.

Denise Brodey is a writer on mental health and disability. She is the author of The Elephant in the Playroom. 

Read on Forbes

Key Tactics to Promote Inclusion of Invisible Diversity Traits

Takeaways from the NOD Corporate Leadership Council Executive Luncheon

Harnessing the Power of Difference: Tactics to Promote Inclusion of Invisible Diversity Traits. Insights from the NOD Corporate Leadership Council’s Executive Luncheon “Bringing Our Whole Selves to Work”. 1. Set the tone from the top down; 2. Cultivate trust to boost disability self-ID rates; 3. Disclosure can reveal supportive networks; 4. Tackle stigma head on to succeed; 5. Get outside of your comfort zone; 6. Take action to advance a culture of authenticity.

On the 20th of June the National Organization on Disability held its Corporate Leadership Council executive luncheon titled “Bringing Our Whole Selves to Work:  Harnessing the Power of Difference by Uncovering Invisible Diversity Traits.”  Presented in partnership with The LGBTQ Community Center, representatives from over 45 companies attended this exclusive event that spotlighted how corporate cultures can welcome unseen diversity segments, like LGBT identities and non-apparent disabilities, such as mental illness. Sarah Mikhail, Executive Director of the LGBTQ center highlighted that “Sarah Mikhail, Executive Director of the LGBTQ center highlighted that “there is no such thing as a single because we do not live single issue lives.”  We are all a combination of many things which impact our daily living.

  • Set the tone from the top down

Panelists Nora Vele Executive Director, Global Diversity & Inclusion of Merck; Eric Mitchel Associate Vice President, Human Resources of AT&T; and James Mahoney Executive Director & Head of Autism at Work at JPMorgan Chase & Co., shared insights and leading practices to support employees with invisible diversity traits in the workplace. The panel encouraged self-identification and disclosure of disabilities by managers, supervisor and higher management as a way to inspire a safer environment for employees to also self-identify and request accommodations if necessary.  It has been proven that those whom disclose their disability to employers are more productive than employees that chose to mask their true selves.

  • Cultivate trust to boost disability self-ID rates

When asked what was being done within each organization to promote harnessing the power of difference while bringing your whole selves to work, Ms. Vele stated that in creating a culture of inclusion for people with disabilities, Merck began with their employee resource group (ERG) and focused on eight aspects—one being the importance of self-identification.  Merck found by using infographics they were able to increase the amount of employees whom chose to self-identify.  Merck also created “A Day in the Life of an Employee” to help promote awareness of a fellow employees discussing their disabilities while filming them at work and home.  Ms. Vele shares that companies become more enlightened when employees are listened to and feel cared for—and companies can reap increased productivity when employees can free up ‘emotional real estate’ by disclosing their full identities at work.

  • Disclosure can reveal supportive networks

Carol Glazer, President of the National Organization on Disability engaged in a fireside chat with Lisa Lucchese, Global Head of External Reporting Operations & Co-Executive Sponsor of Access Ability, Mid-Atlantic, JPMorgan Chase & Co.  Ms. Lucchese shared her experiences and challenges navigating understanding and disclosing her mental health diagnosis in the workplace. Ms. Lucchesse makes clear that because someone has a diagnosis it doesn’t mean it’s easier, it just means they have more information to work with [to understand the supports needed to succeed].”  It was through focusing on her career that she was able to feel normal. “The harder we work the more normal we feel,” she contends.  When asked how disclosure helped her as a worker, she shared that now she can talk to people about her own experiences and her own realizations. Emphasizing the importance of being true to yourself, she shared that when faced with hardship, an opportunity to make the biggest changes in one’s life may also presents itself.  “Having a network encourages you, and honestly, you want to do more.”  Bringing your whole self to work creates creativity, enhances ability, builds resiliency and develops empathy; it’s a winning formula.

  • Tackle stigma head on to succeed

Eric Mitchell spoke about how AT&T branded their health insurance as “Bringing Your Healthy Self to Work.”  They believe that not disclosing a disability causes a stress—that’s largely avoidable, so they’ve launched a campaign for employees to sign a pledge, take a photo and share their disability as a way to help stamp out the stigma of mental illness.  In addition, they have created a webcast entitled, “Everything is not fine:  I may look o.k. but you don’t know what is going on under the surface,” to inspire and promote authenticity around mental health. A year later a second version followed: “Everything is still not fine” took on a more pronounced stance on ensuring employees were comfortable disclosing a mental illness—which proved to be even more successful.  Sharing personal stories is a powerful tactic, so finding ways bring your organization’s stories to life can encourage employees to be authentic regarding their disability.

  • Get outside of your comfort zone

James Mahoney of JPMorgan Chase & Co. spoke about their innovative program to hire candidates with autism, which touts a high success rate in terms of productivity and integration.  Regarding their aptitude in visual detail, these new hires with autism were equal in quality to their peers and 48 percent faster.  “Today we are at 95 people in a dozen locations and in 25 different roles,” states Mr. Mahoney speaking JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s employees who are on the autism spectrum.  The firm has designed, along with their office of disability inclusion, new techniques for this cohort in terms of recruitment, onboarding, and integration well up to retirement.  Mr. Mahoney stresses the importance of thinking outside of one’s comfort zone with the understanding that it is healthy for people to challenge your perspective.

  • Take action to advance a culture of authenticity

“After all is said and done, let there be more done then said,” shared moderator Karen Brown, Global Diversity & Inclusion Executive & Advisor. This insightful quote was a rallying cry for all to take a proactive approach to improving the culture of inclusion within the workforce.  Ms. Brown spoke on the importance of being authentic, saying: “authenticity is a daily practice of letting go of who we think we should be or who we’re supposed to be.”

The executive luncheon sought to chart solutions to common corporate challenges, providing the attendees with useful tools to promote diversity, inclusion, and harness the power of difference within their own companies. Ultimately, trust and authenticity are key especially in bringing your company’s message around disability inclusion and mental wellness to life.

Don’t miss the next discussion—join the NOD Corporate Leadership Council today. Learn more at NOD.org/council.

Tips for Building Your Disability Friendly Brand: Key Takeaways from the NOD Corporate Leadership Council’s April Networking Luncheon

Representatives from over 35 companies attended the NOD Corporate Leadership Council’s April networking luncheon, “Fostering Engagement, Attracting Diverse Talent: The Value of a Disability Inclusive Brand.” EY, Charter Communications, and The Hershey Company shared some of their strategies for building disability-friendly brands, ranging from sensory-friendly events and fostering service dogs on the corporate campus, to integrating universal design principles into consumer products and embedding people with disabilities across the product design process. Each of these companies has realized returns on their investments in branding their workplaces as disability friendly, including increased rates of disability self-identification, broader appeal in the consumer marketplace, and improved employee engagement.

Tips for Building Your Disability Friendly Brand 4 Key Takeaways from Corporate Leaders 1. Engage your employees with disabilities in developing and testing products and services. 2. Look for creative opportunities to engage all of your employees in disability inclusion. 3. Share employee stories with your entire workforce. 4. Put your brand behind causes. | Discover more insights from the NOD Corporate Leadership Council’s Networking Luncheon. NOD.org

We culled key takeaways from the exclusive Council event that you can use to signal that your company is committed to disability inclusion to employees, jobseekers, and consumers alike:

  • Engage your employees with disabilities in developing and testing products and services. Peter Brown, Vice President of Design for Charter Communications said, “We bake accessibility into everything you do, just like baking a blueberry muffin. It’s hard to add the blueberries after you baked the muffin.” At Charter, they are embedding people with disabilities across their design team, ensuring that products are being tested and monitored for accessibility at every step of the process. This also spurs team-wide innovation in their work to build accessible products and improve quality of life for the people with disabilities that use them.

Peter Brown, Charter Communications' Vice President of Design, speaking at NOD's Spring Networking Luncheon

  • Look for creative opportunities to engage all of your employees in disability inclusion. Alicia Petross, Vice President of Diversity, Inclusion & Engagement for The Hershey Company, found just such an opportunity when she met Hachi: a Chocolate Labrador puppy training to be a service dog. A Hershey employee was fostering Hachi, and asked if she could bring the puppy to work. Alicia saw having Hachi on the Hershey campus – and other dogs like him – as a chance to build community and enhance Hershey’s disability inclusive culture. Since implementing the program in partnership with Susquehanna Service Dogs, the company’s disability self-identification rates have risen 29%, indicating increases in employee engagement and trust in the company.Photo of panelists from left to right: David O’Brien, Partner, Americas Brand, Marketing and Communications for EY, Peter Brown, Vice President of Design for Charter Communications, Alicia Petross, Vice President of Diversity, Inclusion & Engagement for The Hershey Company, and Sheri Klein from The Ad Council
  • Share employee stories with your entire workforce. David O’Brien, Partner, Americas Brand, Marketing and Communications for EY, discussed how having employees – including senior management – share their personal stories, has created an inclusive and empowering environment where employees can feel comfortable bringing their whole selves to work. EY shared a video with Council members featuring a non-binary, transgender employee who is also on the autism spectrum relating how important acceptance at work is to her. Similarly, PwC showed a video of an employee who uses a wheelchair talking about how his unique life experiences have enabled him to be a more productive and accomplished team member. Visible storytelling, like these examples, goes a long way toward building trust and fostering pride across the workforce. O’Brien related that “…as the story [in the video] has gotten told, our own people have shown remarkable pride in this. They’re interested. And then they are so prideful of the fact they work for a company like this.”Attendees at the Council Networking Luncheon seated in the foreground in discussion.
  • Put your brand behind causes. The panel was moderated by Sheri Klein from The Ad Council. Sheri shared a case study of the Love Has No Labels anti-bias campaign, which showed that 63% of employees felt good knowing they work for a company that supports the campaign. Visibility matters, and just as employees feel proud to work for inclusive companies, consumers also care deeply about how and where they spend their money.

With this in mind, think about what a campaign highlighting your company’s commitment to hiring people with disabilities could do for your employee engagement. Find out more about the NOD Compact Awareness Campaign.

Plus, don’t miss the next NOD Corporate Leadership Council event! Join us on September 25th in the Washington, D.C. area for our Annual Forum + Leading Disability Employers Dinner: “New Frontiers in Disability Employment.

5 Things Anyone With a Physical Disability Should Know Before Applying to a Job

By Chelsea Jacksonin | Jan 15 2018-07:00pm

Getting ready for your next job search is immensely stressful for pretty much everyone (if it’s not, you need to share your secrets). However, it can seem impossible to find a job when you have a disability, especially for those of us who have a physical disability (seeing as a lot of physical disabilities are easily visible).

According to the United States Census Bureau, about 57 million Americans have some form of disability. However, just because people with disabilities are a protected class, doesn’t mean magically hiring managers throw job offers you.

In fact, the United States Census Bureau elaborates that people between the ages of 21 and 64 who have disabilities are 38 percent less likely to have jobs than those who don’t have disabilities.

Because those with disabilities are statistically less likely to get jobs over those who don’t, we need to work harder to land a job, especially since it takes extra work to combat the negative stigma that surrounds everyone with a disability. Beyond the incorrect stigma that people with disabilities are lazy, there are several things that we need to know before we even apply for a new job.

  1. You should choose to disclose your disability at your discretion

If you need to use a mobility device on a regular basis, then your disability might seem like it’s revealed once you meet a hiring manager. However, formally disclosing your disability to your company’s human resources department can help ensure that you perform your daily tasks more efficiently (by getting access to reasonable accommodations or additional sick days for medical appointments).

For those of us who have invisible disabilities, hiring managers might not notice our disabilities right away.

Staff Attorney for the National Disability Rights Network (NDRN), Amy E. Scherer, tells Her Campus, “There is still a lot of stigma surrounding people with disabilities, so I think there is, unfortunately, good reason for people to be hesitant about disclosing a disability. Obviously, if the disability is visible, there may not be a choice in the matter. But, I don’t think a person should feel obligated to reveal a disability to the employer if it has no impact on the ability to perform the job.” If you’re confident that you can successfully perform every aspect of the job, without accommodations, then you might not need to disclose your disability to your employer. However, if this changes and you do need reasonable accommodations later in your professional career, you can still formally disclose your disability with your company’s HR department.

“However, it is important to note that if a person is requesting reasonable accommodations from the employer, covered under the ADA, one must disclose the disability. But, one can say that a reasonable accommodation is requested due to a medical condition, impairment or disability without having to disclose more about the particular diagnosis,” Scherer continues.

  1. You have the right to reasonable accommodation

If a specific job posting requires you to stand for long periods of time (for no other reason than to stand to greet people or otherwise), your employer needs to accommodate you if you physically cannot stand or it’s too painful for you to stand for an extended period.

For example, I have arthritis (which is especially painful in my wrists and fingers), so I need text-to-speech applications to type this article.

Because I already know that these apps help my productively and quality of work, I often indicate in my applications that I am disabled. If there’s a section in an application that asks for additional comments or any accommodations, I indicate that I need text-to-speech applications. However, I make it abundantly clear that these “accommodations” allow me to be even more productive and competent in my job.

Often, companies think that requesting additional accommodations somehow translates to you needing extra help or time on a project, which is why it’s important to inform your employer about why you need these accommodations and how they make you a better employee.

If your employer isn’t giving you access to reasonable accommodations, you shouldn’t quit. Scherer explains, “If your employer has ignored your request for an accommodation, your first step should be to make sure you were understood. Put the request in writing, and specifically mention the ADA. Even though the law doesn’t require you to be so explicit, your employer may not understand its obligations or may not have fully grasped your request. If the request continues to be ignored after that, legal action may be necessary.”

If it feels like your employer has forgotten about your request for accommodation, try to continue the conversation and make sure they understand your needs.

  1. You don’t need to accept a lower wage because of your disability

The United States Census Bureau explains that of those in that average working age (seeing as most people work between the age 21 and 64), those with disabilities earn significantly less than those without disabilities. “Adults age 21 to 64 with disabilities had median monthly earnings of $1,961 compared with $2,724 for those with no disability,” the Census Bureau says. That’s all sorts of messed up.

While the discrepancy in wages between people with and without disabilities could attribute to experience and education, it’s equally important that you know how to market yourself in an interview and that you know your worth.

Steve Aaron, a spokesperson for the National Organization on Disability (NOD) and President at SRA Communications, tells Her Campus, “For the 57 million Americans living with disabilities, the largest barriers to employment usually stem from stigma about what individuals with disabilities can achieve and contribute to the workforce. Despite an increasing number of people with disabilities entering the workforce, these pay disparities persist as another ‘face’ of these stereotypes, and they result in discrimination that devalues the work and contributions of people with disabilities.” Although the stigma against people with disabilities might seem impossible to break, you can still fight any workplace injustices–especially if you believe your employer has discriminated against your disability.

Aaron explains that “this discrimination is unlawful.” Though it may seem impossible to retaliate against workplace injustices, you can take legal action if you believe you’re experiencing pay disparity based on your disability.

Personally, I’ve had companies (granted it was only two companies that I applied to) tell me that they needed to pay me less than the salary they advertised on their job posting because, “They needed to allocate funds to my additional accommodations,” which honestly is BS. They know it. I know it.

Conversely, Scherer reveals that “it would be rare for co-workers performing similar jobs (one with a disability, one without a disability) to be receiving different salaries solely as a result of the difference in the person’s disability status.” This makes sense because not all physical disabilities are easily visible.

“The differences are more likely to be caused by the fact that the person with a disability may work part-time due to the functional limitations of his/her disability. The biggest reason for the discrepancy, though, is the huge unemployment rate for people with disabilities. Many people with disabilities are forced into a life of poverty because employers are reluctant to hire them and therefore, they have no other income, outside of social security benefits,” Scherer concludes.

Nevertheless, it isn’t necessarily illegal for a company to offer anyone a different wage than the advertisement, seeing as a job posting isn’t a contract, so there isn’t anything that legally binding that company to offer you the advertised wage on the job posting. However, it’s generally a bad practice, and you can report them to the Better Business Bureau.

Regardless, you shouldn’t accept a lower salary offer if you aren’t comfortable with it. Instead, you should counter that you deserve a higher wage because of all of your qualifications and your potential benefit to the company.

  1. You don’t need to lie about gaps in your employment history

Depending on your physical disability, you may have had to take a brief hiatus from the working world (because your health is always more important than a paycheck). However, you don’t need to lie to a hiring manager about why you have a gap in your employment history. After all, even people without disabilities have to take extended periods of time off of work for their physical and psychological health.

Instead of creating an elaborate alibi that you rescind from your last job to go on a year-long humanitarian expedition, tell the truth. Explain to the hiring manager that you have a gap in your employment because you needed to take some time off for your health because otherwise your wellbeing and your quality of work would’ve been in jeopardy.

It may seem a bit heavy to explain this during a face-to-face interview with a hiring manager, so you could always opt to reveal this vague, but truthful, information in an “additional information” section of an application.

However, you don’t have to explain that your employment gap was due to your disability or medical condition. Scherer recommends “highlighting anything that happened during the gap (volunteer projects etc.) and avoiding the inclination to go into any detail about the medical history that led to the gap.” In this scenario, you can transform your employment gap into a positive experience, and you avoid discussing your medical history.

You could also explain your employment gap, and subsequently your disability, to your advantage. Aaron reports that you can “be honest about the reason behind any gaps in your resume” as long as you “give yourself credit for the skills you may have honed in having a disability.”

After all, your disability has allowed you to develop an incredible set of skills. Aaron explains, “Dealing with a series of cancer treatments may have given you improved multitasking skills or heightened your sense of empathy. Learning to navigate your city in a wheelchair with paraplegia may have improved your time management skills. All of these are valuable assets to employers. This fact is more than field-tested: the employers who do hire from this pool consistently rank employees with disabilities among their best, most dedicated workers, with some of the lowest rates of turnover.”

Instead of trying to seem like the perfect professional person, be truthful without revealing too much information about your medical condition. By too much, you don’t need to review your entire medical history with your hiring manager. Instead, you can simply explain that you have a gap in your employment history because you had a medical emergency, and use Aaron’s advice by explaining how your disability gives you strength in the workplace.

After all, your hiring manager would contact your previous employer to confirm whether or not you left that position to volunteer around the globe. And a company never wants to hire an untrustworthy candidate.

  1. You aren’t alone

If your inbox is filling up with rejection letters even before you get to an interview, you aren’t alone. Scope explains, “When applying for jobs only 51% of disabled applications result in an interview compared with 69% for non-disabled applicants. Also on average, disabled people apply for 60% more jobs than non-disabled people when searching for a job.” Not only do people with physical disabilities get fewer interviews than applicants without any disabilities, but we also have to apply for more jobs than those non-disabled applicants.

Although we might have to search for jobs a bit differently, companies also need to grow and change in order to include people with disabilities in their hiring practices.

Lori Golden, Abilities Strategy Team Leader at Ernst & Young (EY) which is a member of the NOD Corporate Leadership Council, acknowledges that “one important signal in building the kind of culture that makes employees feel comfortable self-identifying is ensuring that company facilities are truly accessible to all employees. For example, are hand towels in the bathroom within reach of an employee in a wheelchair? Do emergency alarms feature accessible visual and auditory cues for blind or deaf employees? Does your company show employees with disabilities of all levels working and contributing in your company? Do they share the stories of how they are successful on the job, especially if it involves accommodations?” If more companies update their facilities to accommodate for people with disabilities, then their workplace atmosphere will appear more inviting to every applicant.

Company attributes like these also help applicants find employers with their best interests in mind.

If you’re still having a difficult time landing an interview, try reaching out to one of these organizations:

  • Vocational Rehabilitation Services: If you’re having a difficult time affording medical devices or issues finding employment, try contacting your local Vocational Rehabilitation Agency.
  • National Disability Rights Network (NDRN): A non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the civil and human rights of people with disabilities. NDRN is also the most prominent, legally based advocacy dedicated to protecting the rights of people with disabilities.
  • Scope: While this non-profit organization is in the UK, their mission is to ensure that people with disabilities have access to the same employment opportunities as people without disabilities.
  • National Organization on Disability (NOD)This organization is a national leader in helping businesses tap the disability labor pool, and offers companies a complete set of solutions, including benchmarking, program design and planning, and customized local hiring engagements. NOD’s employment experts make the journey with companies, from initial exploration through stage after stage of improvement, all the way to success.
  • American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD): Although AAPD that promotes change positive change and growth for people with disabilities, this organization helps connect people with disabilities to the proper resources to ensure we have the same employment opportunities.
  • Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC): If you believe that you are being discriminated against during an interview, at your work or you simply aren’t receiving reasonable accommodation, then you should contact the EEOC immediately.

Although there’s a stigma that disabled people are just lazy people who live off of the government (which by the way is ridiculous, especially since the average SSI disability paycheck barely keeps people with disabilities above the poverty line), people with disabilities want to work and a lot of us are actively searching for employment opportunities.

For those people with disabilities who want to work (or just don’t want to go through the hell that is the SSI application), only 17.9 percent of people with disabilities were employed in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

We can’t really put the same effort into applying to jobs as people without disabilities and expect to receive equal job opportunities. Instead, we have to think of fancy new tricks before we apply to jobs, because we can’t just attach a business card dispenser to our mobility devices and expect hiring managers to swarm toward us. Instead, we have to fight the stigma against people with disabilities even before we start drafting your application material.

Read on HerCampus.

6 Ways to Be a Better Ally to People Living with Disabilities

When it comes to talking about disability, we don’t.

Nearly one in five Americans reports living with a disability, yet our silence prevents us from aiding in destigmatization, fair access and equal opportunity.

Sunday marks 25 years since the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law, but we still have a long way to go when it comes to properly supporting people living with disabilities. Though anti-discrimination laws like the ADA are more than needed to ensure opportunity and access for marginalized populations, even these laws can’t change our social views of disability.

Along with major forms of social discrimination, such as denying employment to people with disabilities or using the R-word, there are seemingly little things able-bodied people do every day that aren’t so inclusive. And those little things need to change.

Here are six things you should think about in order to be a stronger ally to disability communities.

 

1. Don’t use people with disabilities as your own inspiration to rise above challenges.

 

We’ve all seen those widely shared Facebook posts that marvel at people who “overcame” their disabilities — the girl drawing with her mouth because doesn’t have arms, or the little boy running with a prosthetic leg. These images are meant to inspire able-bodied people to see their challenges aren’t so bad after all.

Disability rights activist Stella Young coined the term “inspiration porn” to refer to this kind of post. These images and messages often come at the expense of disability populations, making them pornographic because, as Young said, they objectify one group of people for the benefit of another.

“The whole concept refers to the fact that most able-bodied people think of disability as such an unspeakable condition that you can only think about it in euphemism,” Carol Glazer, president of the National Organization on Disability, tells Mashable. “People use terms like ‘special’ and ‘exceptional,’ when really people want to say, ‘You have an unspeakable condition. If I had that condition. I don’t know what I’d do.’”

But disability conditions aren’t unspeakable. As Young said, we all learn how to use our bodies to the best of their capacity. Recognize that people with disabilities aren’t intrinsically exceptional for getting out of bed in the morning. They might just get out of bed in a different way.

 

2. View aids that enhance the lives of people with disabilities as more than just devices.

 

Some people living with disabilities require the assistance of wheelchairs, service animals, interpreters and other devices that help enhance their lives. These objects act as an extension of a person — and you should respect them as a part of that person.

“Oftentimes, people will lean on someone’s wheelchair,” Glazer says. “What most people may not know is that a wheelchair is part of somebody’s personal space. Leaning on a wheelchair is like standing on somebody’s shoes. It’s their belonging.”

The same thing goes with service animals. For example, you may want to pet a cute service dog, but he’s working. “You wouldn’t go up to someone who is working and just joke around,” Glazer says.

This rule also applies to interpreters. When it comes to a person acting as a device for another person, it may seem awkward to consider a human as a piece of equipment. But, in that moment, he or she is an extension of that person, Glazer says. Focus on facing and talking to the people whom the interpreters are assisting — not the interpreters themselves.

 

3. Understand a person’s disability doesn’t define her, but may be an important part of her identity.

 

Able-bodied people have a habit of defining people with disabilities by their disabilities. Instead of using language like, “She’s confined to a wheelchair” or “He’s mentally challenged,” refer to the person first.

“Even my mother would say, ‘Oh, he’s a hydrocephalic,’” Glazer says, referring to her son. “No, he’s not. He’s a child with hydrocephalus.”

Changing your language to refer to people first is an important step toward inclusivity. Instead of using a person’s identity as her defining characteristic, refer to her disability only when necessary to the conversation. “Is the meeting space is accessible? My coworker, Chloe, is coming to the meeting and she uses a wheelchair.”

Most importantly, talk to people about what their disabilities mean to them. They could be their connections to community and activism, or they could be relatively unimportant. But talking to them is the only way you’ll know. Let them define themselves on their own terms.

 

4. Never have low expectations for someone with disabilities.

 

Assuming someone’s levels of ability — whether intellectual or physical — before you actually get to know that person is a problem Glazer calls “the tyranny of low expectations.” Expecting minimal achievement from people living with disabilities is a disservice their ability to succeed, Glazer says.

“We just don’t have very high expectations for people with disabilities. We usually infantilize them,” she says.

Don’t adjust your expectations based on your own biases. Instead, work with people living with disabilities to properly accommodate their needs — if any adjustment is even necessary. Don’t assume someone’s disability defines their overall ability.

“You can’t assume difficulty speaking means difficulty thinking,” Glazer says.

 

5. Don’t assume people living with disabilities are miserable, unhappy or less fulfilled than you.

 

Just because someone has a disability doesn’t mean he or she is living a life that’s any less than an able-bodied person’s.

“[Some able-bodied people] say things like, ‘You have to rise above your disability. You have to overcome your disability,’” Glazer says. “But most people with disabilities just think of themselves as normal people.”

Like any able-bodied person, people with disabilities adapt to accommodate their own experiences. But that’s not something that makes a person living with disabilities less fortunate or clearly miserable.

“Even if we have no arms and legs, we’d figure out how to paint a painting with our mouths. And it’s not a big deal and we’re not rising above. We’re just us,” Glazer says.

 

6. Stop being afraid of disability.

 

Able-bodied people don’t often talk about disability, and the fear of getting something wrong or offensive keeps us from addressing it. We might even accidentally point out that we aren’t as comfortable with disability as we want the world to believe.

But these fears shouldn’t stop us from confronting our own biases.

“When you are afraid, you stop thinking. When you stop thinking, you start making silly mistakes. If you calm yourself down, you just get comfortable. And if you ever wonder about anything, just ask,” Glazer says.

Become a stronger ally by using your fear as an indicator of the things you need to work on. Confront your discomfort, and ask questions.

http://mashable.com/2015/07/26/disability-ally-inclusive/?utm_cid=mash-com-Tw-main-link