Disability Advocates Discuss Past and Future of Disability Rights at NOD Forum

Employers and disability advocates convened in the nation’s capital on Thursday to discuss the history and future of the Americans with Disabilities Act and to celebrate 40 years of the National Organization on Disability at its annual forum. 

One common theme that filled the halls of 101 Constitution Avenue where the event was held was the intersectionality between the disability rights movement and the civil rights movement. 

Marc H. Morial, President and CEO of the National Urban League, said the disability rights movement is actually part of the civil rights movement. 

“The women’s rights movement is part of the civil rights movement. Gender identity and orientation is part of the civil rights movement. We have to think about it that way. We have to understand and form support to [promote] each other,” he said, adding that they are all part of diversity, equity and inclusion work. 

Taryn MacKenzie Williams, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Disability Employment Policy, agreed with Morial and added that her department and the Biden-Harris Administration are focused on DEIA. 

“Often in our work, we talk about diversity, we talk about equity, we talk about inclusion,” she said. “For this administration, it was critical for us to bring the ‘A’ to the conversation. For us, the ‘A’ means accessibility. We want to ensure the policies we have around diversity, equity and inclusion are inclusive of people with disabilities.”

With next month being National Disability Employment Awareness Month, Williams shared what her department is focused on when it comes to finding quality jobs for people with disabilities. One major area of focus is on youth and young adults with disabilities, specifically those who are transitioning from high school into post-secondary education and employment. The pandemic changed the way in which we all work and learn, and that effect was equally, if not more, impactful for people with disabilities. 

“For us within the Department of Labor and across other departments, we want to ensure that we are not losing a generation of youth and young adults with disabilities who need to be connected to the workforce, who need the opportunities, as research clearly states, to get that workplace learning in order to ensure they have adequate pathways,” Williams said. 

2022 Leading Disability Employer Awards

During the evening portion of the forum, DiversityInc Founder and Chairman Luke Visconti, who is also NOD Chairman, presented NOD’s 2022 Leading Disability Employer Awards. Companies are awarded this honor based on their performance on NOD’s Employment Tracker, which is an assessment tool that evaluates workforce disability inclusion policies and practices. (DiversityInc is a NOD forum sponsor). 

Some of the companies recognized as leading disability employers are also current DiversityInc Top 50 companies or Top 50 Hall of Fame companies. Those companies are: 

During his remarks, Visconti also emphasized the importance of employing people with disabilities. 

People with disabilities “have the lowest labor participation rate of any group in this country,” he said. “It is a disgrace that we waste this vital resource at a time when everybody is desperate for labor. This can’t continue on, and in that Carol (Carol Glazer, NOD President) has started the best assemblage of data related to corporate best practices and numbers for people with disabilities that exists.”

By leveraging that data, NOD and disability advocates could find employment for millions of people with disabilities, Visconti added. 

Check back to DiversityInc and DiversityInc Best Practices for more coverage!

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