In marking the International Day of Persons with Disabilities on December 3, President Trump committed his administration to expanding opportunities for Americans with disabilities. “In June, I signed an executive order to expand apprenticeship programs, giving more people — including those with disabilities — access to the relevant skills and tools needed to secure good jobs,” he said.
Increasingly, American businesses of all sizes are realizing the untapped potential represented by people with disabilities. “People with disabilities represent more than 1 billion people,” said Jill Houghton, president of the U.S. Business Leadership Network, a group that works with multinational corporations on disability inclusion. “Including talent with disabilities is crucial to innovation.”
The U.S. Business Leadership Network is a co-creator of the Disability Equality Index, which scores companies’ disability inclusion policies and practices on a scale of zero to 100. “We created it because business was asking us for a tool to help them [on] working toward being inclusive of people with disabilities,” said Houghton.
The index rates companies across four categories: culture and leadership, enterprise-wide access, employment practices, and community engagement and support services. This year it is introducing a fifth category, supplier diversity, which measures a company’s ability to include businesses owned by people with disabilities throughout their supply chains.
DEI measures 4 criteria w/in a company: Culture & #Leadership, Enterprise-Wide #Access, #EmploymentPractices, & Community #SupportServices.
Be apart of our 2018 assessment!https://t.co/1kGOdFimpk pic.twitter.com/rOSzC2QKGl
— Disability:IN (@DisabilityIN) December 6, 2017
Among the companies that have achieved a score of 100 on the Disability Equality Index is Wells Fargo & Company.
Kathy Martinez leads the bank’s team on disability inclusion. Martinez was born blind and knows firsthand the qualities people with disabilities bring to the workforce. “The struggle of doing things differently ultimately results in somebody who’s pretty strategic,” said Martinez. “That in turn allows us to be very innovative. We cannot do things the same so we figure out other ways.”
Houghton agrees: “Kathy Martinez is blind, right? She’s going to see the world in a different way, and she’s going to be a key ingredient that corporate America can’t afford to ignore. She’s going to add competitive advantage.”
In his statement, Trump predicted that through “technological advancements, job training and educational opportunities, and increased engagement from business and community leaders, people with disabilities will continue to enrich our nation and our world in new and innovative ways.”
“All companies are trying to innovate and improve their bottom line, and if they’re not including talent with disabilities, it’s a completely missed opportunity,” she said.