On October 21, 2020, the National Business & Disability Council (NBDC) celebrated National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) with its Virtual Disability Inclusion Summit: Moving from Awareness to Action. Each year for NDEAM, NBDC hosts a convening to highlight the contributions of people with disabilities in the workplace and the diversity and inclusion issues challenging employers. This year’s informative sessions focused on a number of disability-specific topics such as recruitment strategy, intersectionality, and the benefits of mentorship. In light of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the Summit also provided topical advice about disability inclusion and navigating the ever-shifting landscape as it is being impacted by this health care crisis.
John D. Kemp, President & CEO of The Viscardi Center, opened the Summit and touched upon Shareholder Capitalism and Artificial Intelligence (AI) and its fairness when it comes to the recruitment process for candidates with disabilities. Steve Demetriou, Chair and CEO of Jacobs, delivered opening remarks. Jacobs is an international corporation that offers professional, technical, and construction services and specialty consulting. Under his leadership, Steve Demetriou has successfully pivoted Jacobs’ senior-level positions from all men to 50% women. In July 2020, he launched Jacobs’ Action Plan for Advancing Justice and Equality.
NBDC’s Virtual Disability Inclusion Summit was packed with great strategies for disability inclusion and here are four especially poignant highlights:
- In the COVID era, workplace accommodations are now more important than ever. Brian East of Disability Rights Texas and Jennifer Mathis of Bazelon Center explained that the mental stress of living through a pandemic is taxing for people with mental disabilities. Being flexible about the accommodations process and offering supportive accommodations, including telework options and staggered schedules, bolsters disability inclusion in the workplace.
- Building partnerships is key to a successful disability digital recruitment strategy. Local and national partnerships can create a pipeline for sourcing talent with disabilities. Keryn Rowland, Vice President of Human Relations at Synchrony, showed Synchrony’s very successful disability talent recruitment results using this strategy. She also advised hiring managers to host digital “Meet and Greet” events to give talent a “look through the windows” perspective on a company. Learn more about NBDC’s Disability Employment Source for finding qualified candidates with disabilities.
- Allies can support people of color with disabilities. The topical stress of a 2020 world is magnifying the stigma that people of color with disabilities experience. Disability, like other oppressions, is stigmatized, especially at the intersection of race. Ruth C. White, PhD, MSW, explained that historical systemic racism and ableism leads to Imposter Syndrome, chronic stress, fatigue, the threat of stereotyping, anxiety, grief and depression. Allies can support people of color with disabilities by standing and speaking up, listening, learning and apologizing when necessary, and being dedicated to inclusion.
- Mentoring is a disability inclusion strategy that benefits both employees and organizations. Research proves 91% of employees with mentors are satisfied with their jobs. Thus, it is clear that mentoring is effective. In addition to sharing this compelling statistic, Derek Shields, President of the National Disability Mentoring Coalition, outlined the benefits of mentoring programs for employees and organizations, including passing on organizational knowledge, organizational diversity, and developing technical skills and opportunities for career advancement. Enroll in our Emerging Leaders Program for College Students with Disabilities.
As Jennifer Brown, CEO and Founder of Jennifer Brown Consulting, pointed out in her overview of the continuum of inclusive leadership, the goal of one’s journey to inclusion should be to move from an individual perspective on inclusion to an organizational perspective, with ongoing re-evaluation of the effectiveness of the strategy. NBDC is here to support your organization’s journey to inclusion. We help corporate partners access talent, equip teams with resources, make digital assets accessible and implement inclusion plans. To find out more about how to become an NBDC corporate partner, contact Carmen Daniels Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org.