with Helena Berger of the American Association of People with Disabilities
Posted Oct 16, 2017
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Twenty-seven years after the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act, unemployment rates for people with a disability remain higher than the general population. Helena Berger, President and CEO of the American Association of People with Disabilities discusses the benefits of the Disability Equality Index, a benchmark tool that helps organizations assess where they stand on the spectrum of disability inclusion. This discussion continues in part 2 of Disability Equality Index.
Interview recorded Sept 27, 2017.
Traynham: In August of 2017, the unemployment rate for people with disabilities was nearly double the rate for people without disabilities. The American Association of People with Disabilities is tackling this disparity, and they're doing so by providing companies an objective assessment on their disability-inclusion practices. Hello, and welcome to "Comcast Newsmakers". I'm Robert Traynham. With me is Helena Berger, president and CEO of AAPD. Helena, welcome to the program.
Berger: Thank you.
Traynham: So, I hate to say this, but I think I need to double-down on what I mentioned a few minutes ago. That is really unfortunate news that I just mentioned, and that is that people with disabilities, their unemployment rate is just double. How can that be, especially in 2017?
Berger: Yeah. No. I couldn't agree with you more. I mean, think about it. We just celebrated the 27th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act which is a landmark civil-rights law for people with disabilities, and it?s had, you know, a tremendous impact on people with disabilities, but when we look at employment, the needle hasn't moved. It just has not provided or mitigated, I think, the discrimination and a lot of the unconscious bias that we see around employing people with disabilities. And, you know, I think one of the biggest things that are impacting that employment rate are the attitudinal barriers. So, as I mentioned, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the ADA -- an incredible piece of civil-rights law, but you can't legislate attitudes. You know, we see that every day. So, I think that?s one of the biggest barriers that our community, the disability community, is facing.
Traynham: So, Helena, let?s talk about a solution. As I understand it, you all have a Disability Equality Index. Specifically, what is that, and what does it -- First of all, what is it measuring? And what is the intention? What do you want it to do? Berger: Sure. So, the Disability Equality Index is the DEI. It?s a benchmarking tool. It?s a transparent, benchmarking tool that companies can take, primarily Fortune 500 and 1000 companies can take, where they can assess where they are on the spectrum of disability inclusion. It?s a very comprehensive tool, so you look at governance and culture. You look at enterprise-wide accessibility, hiring practices, community engagement. And we give a score, anywhere from zero to 100. Companies that score an 80 to 100, we actually publicize those companies. Companies that score lower, nobody knows about it. This is not a punitive tool. This is not to shame anybody. This is to be working with companies so they improve their disability-inclusion policies and practices. And ultimately, what the end result hopefully will be will be more people with disabilities getting hired.
Traynham: More of my discussion with Helena up next.In part two, Helena delves into how the DEI has assisted companies along their journey toward creating diverse,inclusive workplaces.Click the link below to watch.