with Jill Houghton of the U.S. Business Leadership Network
Posted Oct 16, 2017
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According to the United States Department of Labor, the unemployment rate for people with disabilities is nearly double the rate of people without disabilities. Despite major strides in equality, challenges remain for people with disabilities. Jill Houghton, president and CEO of the U.S. Business Leadership Network discusses efforts to encourage businesses to be more inclusive. This discussion continues in part 2 of the Disability Employment Gap.
Interview recorded Sept 27, 2017.
Traynham: The workforce participation rate for people with disabilities is 20%, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Compare that statistic to people without disabilities, and the rate rises to 68%. Hello, everyone, and welcome to "Comcast Newsmakers." I?m Robert Traynham and joining me to discuss the employment gap in the disability community is Jill Houghton, President and C.E.O. of the U.S. Business Leadership Network. Jill, welcome to the program.
Houghton: Thank you.
Traynham: So, back in the early 1990s, as you probably remember, George H.W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act into law. That was championed by former Senator Bob Dole, Republican from Kansas, among others. And that was pretty landmark when that was signed into law. It did things such as lowering the water fountain, having those curved ramps and so forth in the sidewalks, Braille in the elevator, and the list goes on and on and on -- really bringing dignity to those individuals that perhaps may have a disability. Fast-forward here to 2017, as I mentioned moments ago, we?re still talking about a gap. Why is that the case?
Houghton: You know, I think that the issue is, is that the Americans with Disabilities Act was monumental. It gave people with disabilities civil rights. But the one thing that the Americans with Disabilities Act can?t do is legislate attitudes.
Houghton: And so we still have a lot of work to do in corporate America and in our country -- around the world, for that matter -- around raising awareness and creating inclusion within the work place.
Traynham: So, Jill, what I hear you say is it really is education, as you mentioned, awareness. It?s really, I guess, teaching people something they may not know or enlightening people, if you will. It seems pretty easy but, clearly, it might be a little difficult. How do you go about doing that, especially in the workplace?
Houghton: Well, the U.S. Business Leadership Network is engaged in a partnership with the American Association of People with Disabilities, and we?ve created something called the Disability Equality Index because, in corporate America, we know that what gets measured gets done. And this is a tool that corporate America is using to change their policies and their practices to not just diversify, but to include people with disabilities in their workplaces, in the marketplace, and in their supply chain.
Traynham: Jill, could it be -- As I mentioned before, this was signed into law literally almost 20-plus years ago. Could it be that the law is now outdated and, perhaps, maybe Congress and the administration may need to go back and rewrite the law or update the law to current thinking? Is that part of the process, or should it be part of the process?
Houghton: No, absolutely not. The law is solid. But, again, you can have the best law in the country, but you can?t change attitudes.
Houghton: So, what corporate America is doing is using tools like the Disability Equality Index to really change their behaviors. So, for example, a very large company that we work with used the Disability Equality Index and it gave them the opportunity to look into areas of their company -- these are big companies -- and work to be more inclusive with their technology, to make it accessible to people with disabilities.
Traynham: In part 2 of our conversation, Jill discusses how her organization is partnering with companies and nonprofits to create a culture of belonging. Join us in part 2 by clicking the link below.