Overcoming obstacles to the integration of disabled people in the C-Suite should be at the top of every board agenda. Often, I hear about diversity, but diversity efforts alone do not deal with the challenges facing disabled senior executives or aspiring leaders. These challenges can be addressed, and leaders have a responsibility to turn around the stigma surrounding disability in the C-suite.
In case you missed it, October was National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). However, you may not have noticed due to several other monthly observances nationwide. NDEAM is sponsored annually in October by the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Disability Employment Policy, which says the observance dates back to 1945.
Did you know? The employment population ratio for people without disabilities (65.7%) was more than triple that of people with disabilities (18.7%) in 2017, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Boy, although I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve read the following story, even now I tear up.
You see, at a fundraising dinner for a school that serves children with learning disabilities, the father of one of the students delivered a breathtaking speech:
All savvy employers should know by now that providing equal opportunities to people with disabilities simply makes good business sense in the 21st century global economy. This is especially true in a competitive U.S. labor market.
Unfortunately, not every company has gotten the message.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law by President George H.W. Bush on July 26, 1990. This sweeping statute has opened the doors of inclusion and gainful employment to millions of citizens with disabilities nationwide, which has helped to boost business productivity.
“The biggest problem with having a disability is that far too often
people see it before they see you!”
I met little David at a local Starbucks a few years ago.
You see, I was hunched over my laptop searching the internet for a new twist for a piece on people with disabilities given that October is National Disability Employment Month. Over a third cup of coffee, I was focused, oblivious to the comings and goings of folks entering and leaving. But in truth, I was in my zone and preferred to keep it that way.
But little David – his Downs Syndrome and all – had other plans for me. And others.
At the top of his lungs, David called out “Hey brother” as he approached a surprised me at my table in the corner. A high five and a hug later, David was off greeting and hugging others in the place. And like me, all were startled and clearly smitten by little David. It was written all over their faces, our faces. Their silence spoke volumes.
“David, David, get back over here. Leave these people alone!” demanded his mom; words she’d no doubt uttered many times before – words obviously to no avail. But that was before she realized how deeply David touched all of us that day.
Three minutes later, and with little David in tow, mom headed to the door and, David being David, waved and bellowed to us, “good bye my friends.” And we all, in unison, in different words, with moisten eyes – patrons and Starbucks employees alike – stood up and returned, “See ya David!”
And for a few seconds we all stood there, in complete silence, absolute strangers no longer, knowing somehow and full well that we’d just been touched – and connected in our humanity – by an angel.
Now I’ve returned to that Starbucks a number of times since then, feeling cheated by the brevity of that meeting with David, wishing and hoping my little buddy would be there.
But no such luck so far. But I’ll keep going back.
Yes, I’ll keep going back…. wishing and hoping!
Some of us have extra-sharp hearing, and others begin to lose their hearing at different times. For the first time in history, 20% of those in their late teens and early 20’s are reporting signs of a hearing loss – a problem that will cause major challenges for commerce and industry. (One cause for this is loud music played through earbuds for too long.) Presbycusis, hearing loss caused by age, is another challenge, and often starts in the late 50’s or early 60’s. By age 65, one third of Americans experience this problem. There are simple, practical strategies that can help. Here are three taken from the e-book, “What did you say?”
As I look back sixteen years, I can’t help but thank God for how much He has done for me. I especially thank God for my parents who decided to keep me, instead of aborting me. To all my family, friends, classmates and church members, thank you for encouraging me when I was down, and spending time with me when I was recovering from my craniofacial surgeries.
The world was recently rocked by the untimely death of Robin Williams by suicide. Some called him weak and a coward. Some wondered how he could just leave his friends and loved ones so callously. Some wondered how such a funny and talented person could just give it all up so horribly. The truth is he didn’t die by suicide. That may have been his final act but it didn’t kill him. It was his depression that killed him long before he finally hung himself.
Regardless of whether it is a sudden sickness, fever, or an accident, a disability forces a person to face a new reality. No longer the same, he or she has to tackle the impediments that bind and overcome the barriers that appear on his or her horizon. A person in such a situation is labeled disabled.