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Advancing Employment Opportunities for People with Disabilities

Advancing Employment Opportunities for People with Disabilities

Today, the White House Domestic Policy Council and the Curb Cuts to the Middle Class Initiative hosted the White House Summit on Disability and Employment. The Summit provided businesses, philanthropies, and disability advocates with information about new and existing Federal resources designed to help employers hire more individuals with disabilities, including the new Resource Guide for Employers. The Summit also offered opportunities for attendees to share their experiences in diversifying their workforce through effective strategies to successfully recruit, hire, promote, and retain employees with disabilities.

Jenny Lay-Flurrie is an example of someone who is not only able to accommodate her disability in the workplace, but was able to turn a disability into an asset. Jenny nearly walked away from a promotion when she felt that her deafness and inability to use a mobile phone would end her budding career at an internet company. Luckily, Jenny’s boss had no intention of letting so much talent walk away so easily and encouraged her to advocate for what she needed. Jenny got top-of-the-line hearing aids and worked with her boss to create a culture of awareness within the company about deafness and hearing loss. Jenny continued to take on bigger roles at that company and several other companies, before becoming a Senior Director at Microsoft, where she leads the Trusted Experiences Team (TExT), which focuses on accessibility, privacy, and online safety. Her disability is a benefit to Microsoft, giving the company insight on customers with disabilities around the world, which helps create better products for consumers.

In an increasingly global economy, we simply cannot afford to leave talent on the table. Individuals with disabilities possess the skills and talent to support themselves through meaningful employment and to make important contributions within America’s workplaces. The President is committed both to increasing opportunities for individuals with disabilities and supporting employers in their efforts to increase disability inclusion.

In July 2010, President Obama issued Executive Order 13548, Increasing Federal Employment of Individuals with Disabilities, and committed to increase the number of individuals with disabilities in the Federal workforce. Today, people with disabilities are being hired into the Federal Government at a higher percentage than at any time in the previous seventeen years. This success has led to more people with disabilities in Federal service in 33 years. Additionally, private businesses and employers like Jenny’s former boss are demonstrating that hiring employees with disabilities makes good business sense.

Today, 56.7 million Americans, or 19% of the population, live with disabilities. However, nearly 70% of people with disabilities have been left out of the American workforce. As we approach the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), it is clear that more work must be done to ensure that people like Jenny have equal opportunities to succeed. Together, we can work to build a more inclusive America where people with disabilities benefit from work and help play a role in America’s success.

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