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. Click here for part 1 of the Disability Employment Gap. Interview recorded Sept 27, 2017. Hosted by Robert Traynham.
Traynham: 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 Could it be that the law is now outdated and perhaps maybe Congress and the administration may need to go back and rewrite the law or update the law to current thinking Is that part of the process, or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. 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: You mentioned businesses -- Are these businesses large and small Is this mom-and-pop facilities Perhaps maybe it's a hardware store on Main Street, or perhaps a big-box chain store on, you know, some boulevard. My question, Jill, specifically is when you take a look at the businesses that are out there, is it all-encompassing
Houghton: You know, absolutely, because I think that what we're starting to see is that people with disabilities bring opportunity to business and that opportunity leads to innovation, and that drives bottom lines. So, for example, if we look at things like our phone, the technology in our phone,that our phone can talk to us -- that helps all of us. But, oh, by the way, it also helps people who are blind.
Traynham: You mentioned businesses. Are you working with any large nonprofits as well
Houghton: Absolutely. We work very closely with the American Association of People with Disabilities, and, for that matter, lots of national organizations.
Traynham: This will sound like a strange question, but with other nonprofits, do you find that they also need some education, some learning, some awareness when it comes to this topic
Houghton: I think we all need awareness, because diversity is something that exists, but inclusion and creating a culture of belonging is something that we have to consciously work on. And disability's something that you can't always see, so we really have to drive culture change within corporate America so that people can feel safe to bring their whole selves to work
Traynham: How did you get involved in this work
Houghton: I myself have a learning disability, and so, you know, I didn't set out to do this work, but it found me because my learning disability made it such that I couldn't go to law school.
Traynham: I find that, in the business world in particular, you re really judged on your craft, whatever that might be, whether you're into coding or press relations or whatever the case may be. But it's not really conducive to talking about a disability if, in fact, you have -- So, in fact, in many cases, it feels a little awkward to bring that up. Is it okay to talk about a disability in the workplace
Houghton: You know, I think that what we're trying to do is work with corporate America through the Disability Equality Index to help them be inclusive of people with disabilities and create cultures where people can talk about their disability and feel that actually bringing their disability to work actually creates value.
Traynham: Last question for you, Jill. It sounds like the Index, among some of the other projects that you re working on, are truly trying to make this a cohesive conversation, if you will. Any other projects -- any other programs that you're working on that we should be aware of
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