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Op-Ed: Employers’ Diversity and Equity Efforts Often Neglecting People with Disabilities

2020 launched a crucial national conversation centered on the need for businesses – from Main Street to Wall Street – to address hiring practices, employment policies, recruiting and other aspects of the employment process. to expand opportunities for diversity, equity and inclusion. It seems like every business in the United States, from Google to Pepsi to the small family business in your neighborhood, is exploring DEI’s strategies and tactics to attract new employees, retain existing employees, and attract a larger customer base.

You cannot log in to LinkedIn or Indeed without viewing a new job posting for a DCI Internal Defense executive. You can’t browse Instagram or Facebook without stumbling across a new social media campaign aimed at consumers, like L’Oréal’s new partnership with the NAACP. And you can’t shop at your favorite store without noticing the latest social justice philanthropy initiative like Crate & Barrel’s new 15% Pledge to ensure 15% of its products and collaborations are represented by companies, artists and of black designers by 2024.

However, as our country continues the necessary conversation around DCI and organizations and businesses deploy more creative strategies to address systemic issues, we are neglecting the most underemployed and unemployed segment of our entire state-based population. United – people with disabilities.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 61 million adults live with a disability in the United States, or 26%, or about 1 in 4 adults. In 2019, the Department of Labor reported that 7.3% of people people with disabilities were unemployed, about twice the rate for people without disabilities.

Where are the consumer campaigns featuring visible (and invisible) people with disabilities?

Where are the social justice campaigns to support products and businesses owned by people with disabilities?

And, above all, why aren’t more companies employing people with disabilities?

Despite the passage by Congress of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990 and subsequent amendments in 2008, systemic issues continue to pose significant structural, economic, educational, and regulatory barriers for employers and people with disabilities.

The poverty rate for adults with disabilities (27%) is more than twice that of adults without disabilities (12%). Some would say that the reason is complicated. We do not agree.

People with disabilities are forced to live in a health care and benefit system that was designed in the 1960s, when people with disabilities were institutionalized, often from birth. Even in 2021, for a person with a disability to qualify for benefits under the benefit programs, the only option for health care and services is their state Medicaid program (51 different bureaucratic programs that are complex and burdensome for them). individuals, family members and caregivers).

People with disabilities also have to navigate a complex and limited employment sector that is rooted in outdated expectations and stereotypes – limited options that are more like the 1980s than the 2020s.

Many people with disabilities live in poverty because their only government support (ie Medicaid and Social Security) is not specifically designed to support their disability. Individuals are limited in terms of what they can earn (approximately $ 735 per month) and how much they can save at any given time ($ 2,000). These means-tested program qualifications are based on the 1964 income measures.

Fifty-seven years later, it is time to tackle these outdated systems and programs. It’s time to decouple the poor from the disability community and start creating incentives to bring people with disabilities into jobs – and careers.

Many people with disabilities can and want to work, and many can work effectively with minimal assistance. In many cases, seeking government assistance designed to help low-income people living in poverty is the only way for people with disabilities to survive, as they lack the experience, opportunities, encouragement and skills. support needed to move them to sustainable employment.

Every organization, including the government, can help remedy this situation and help the largest unemployed population living in the United States today:

  • Create a co-designed national disability insurance program focused on the independence of the person and their family or caregivers.
  • Lift income and asset limitations for people with disabilities so that they can work, live and fulfill their own professional passions without fear of losing their benefits.
  • Employers can make their workplaces truly diverse, fair and inclusive by changing their recruiting strategies, expanding their talent pool, offering a learning program that enables partnerships with special education programs and local organizations of people with disabilities, and by ensuring their goods and services – and the way they market them – speak to a wider audience.

As we head into 2021 and begin the economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, it makes sense to think about ways to maximize workforce participation, and a strong focus on DEI is key to positioning the economy for recovery and growth. And as we discuss what DCI’s success in the United States should look like, it’s time for policymakers and employers to step up and do their part to tap into this country’s most unemployed population. – disabled people.

Sara Hart Weir is a leading nonprofit leader and disability policy expert in the United States. Weir is the former President and CEO of the National Down Syndrome Society, co-founder of the CEO Commission for Disability Employment, and most recently the 2020 Main Finalist in the Third District of the US Congress in Kansas.

Nicholas Wyman is a future labor expert, author, speaker and chair of the Institute for Workplace Skills and Innovation. He was also the LinkedIn Education Writer of the Year and wrote an award-winning book, Job U, a How-To Guide to Finding Wealth and Success by Developing the Skills Businesses Really Need. Wyman has an MBA and studied at Harvard Business School and the Kennedy School of Government and received a Churchill scholarship.

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