Disability Matters



I just spent the past few days in the Raleigh-Durham area of North Carolina, on the beautiful campus of Duke University, engaging in powerful conversations and hearing incredible stories of how persons with disabilities and veterans have overcome obstacles to achieve greatness.


I could not wait to share what I learned with you and hopefully provide you insights on how your workplace can provide more opportunities and enhance personal awareness about the plight of persons with disabilities.

First of all, kudos to Nadine Vogel, CEO of Springboard Consulting, LLC, and to CISCO, host of her national summit on disabilities. This annual event, “Disability Matters” brings together organizations that are working on providing an engaging work life balance for employees with disabilities. (Visit www.disabilitymatters.com to learn more.)

Not sure if you know this but persons with disabilities are the largest minority group on the planet – in fact, 10 percent of the planet’s population. However, only 34 percent of this population is employed and 17.6 percent of that population who are seeking employment are unemployed. 

What is this about? The thing is, this is the only group that transcends every ethnicity, identity and generation.  So why are we struggling with engaging persons with disabilities and accepting that they are part of the fabric of this world? Why does a physical or mental difference estrange someone from the rest of the population? 

Disabilities are ever changing and claiming new groups every day. Consider that, as we age many will require some level of assistance to in their daily lives; any one of us could become disabled with a physical or mental impairment in an instant.

At the Disability Matters conference, one of the keynote speakers was an actress, singer, and advocate who sits in a wheelchair and wields a beautiful voice. She proclaimed boldly to the audience how proud she was to be the way she is and she would not want to be any other way. Her achievements thus far in life transcend any disability. So who are we to impose our insecurities on a population of people that only seek opportunity and equity in the workplace?

Here are some tidbits that I learned about veterans and persons with disabilities:

  • Women veterans are the largest homeless population;
  • Experts believe that the ‘d‘ for disorder in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) should be dropped because everyone that suffers from pts ‘d‘ does not have a disorder;
  • The Associated Press now has a journalism guide for disability to support the media with proper language usage;
  • 25 percent of the US workforce has mental health issues;
  • 20 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs have dyslexia.

Now here are a few trends from DMBA 2015 Inclusive Leadership Index about what organizations are doing around disability and veterans in the workforce:

  • 60 percent of companies partner with organizations to support intentional recruiting of persons with disabilities;
  • 42 percent of companies have disability employee resource groups;
  • 80 percent of companies partner with organizations to support intentional recruiting of veterans;
  • 62 percent of companies have veteran employee resource groups;
  • Two percent is the mean of veteran employees that are known;
  • 30 percent of companies have initiatives focused on self-disclosure for persons with disabilities (but does not exclude veterans and LGBTQ);
  • 57 percent of persons with disabilities claim that they only want to be provided a fair opportunity to compete and have access to career development.

This conference really reminded me how persons with disabilities and veterans with disabilities have been enduring bias and stigma for a very long time. What can you do to ensure you are not part of the problem but the solution?