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. Click here
for part 1 of Disability Equality Index.
Interview recorded Sept 27, 2017.
Hosted by Robert Traynham. Read a partial transcript of this interview below: Traynham: So, hypothetically, if a company gets a 20 or 30, or whatever -- under 80 -- do you go into their office and say, "This is how we can improve" "This is what you need to do to get a higher score and let's work together in a collaborative --" in other words, is there any judgment with this?
Berger: No, there's absolutely no judgment. We firmly believe -- The fact that you're taking the tool really says something about your commitment to wanting to improve disability inclusion in your enterprise. So, we will work with the company. We will support the company. And even the companies that get 100 -- there's not one company that scored 100 that says, "You know what? Even though this is considered a perfect score --"
Traynham: They're not satisfied.
Berger: No, and we don't call it a perfect score. It's 100%. You know, it's a rating.
Berger: But it's not 100%.
Traynham: Can you see a difference? In other words, year after year since you've been doing this study or this index, have you seen the needle move, albeit maybe slightly?
Berger: So, when we've seen the needle move -- Now, we haven't seen then needle move obviously when it comes to employment, although with some companies -- Some companies have been very pro-active about really hiring more people with disabilities. Where we have seen the needle move is the number of companies that have taken the DEI. When we started, we started with a pilot project of 40 people the first year out, there was 80 companies that have taken it. We're up to 110. So, I think we see more companies taking the tool. We see an improvement in the number of companies who are pro-actively trying to hire companies, I think the percent was, like, 95% actually have a policy where they are looking to hire more people with disabilities. I think there is greater awareness around accessibility, accommodations. But this is really a journey, and I think that's what this tool is all about -- helping companies on that journey who are committed to making their workforce more diverse.
Traynham: What do you say to the HR person who says, "Look, I'm just on the receiving end of the rsums. We post the job. Whatever comes in, comes in. I don't know where to find these qualified individuals, I'm not sure where to look. There?s nothing that I'm doing wrong. I am just literally the recipient of the rsums coming in." How would you respond to someone like that?
Berger: Sure. So, I think you have to be pro-active. I mean, if you look at your company's statistics -- And I know sometimes identifying people with disabilities in a company is not always easy. But there are ways to be pro-active. My organization, for example, is a national disability organization. There are many other organizations both on a national level, on a state level, on a local level. You can be working with disability organizations in your community or, like I say, on the national level to find more people with disabilities. There are actually companies out there -- all they do is work to ensure that more people are getting hired. So, they're basically headhunters for people with disabilities. You can go to job fairs. You can go to conferences that disability organizations are sponsoring. So, there are really many ways to reach out to the community, but you have to first realize that you're not doing it, right?
Traynham: Yeah, yeah, sure.
Berger: That's the first thing -- just realize, like, "You know what? Yeah, we?re not being pro-active." And if you're not pro-active, to be honest, its not going to happen.
Traynham: And Helena, speaking of pro-active, my last question for you -- for the folks that are watching, where can they go to learn more about this index? Where can they go to perhaps, maybe just quite frankly, have a conversation with someone that can enlighten them, that can educate them about the need to reach out to this community?
Berger: Absolutely. Well, I would certainly recommend to contact my organization, the American Organization of People with Disabilities. Our website is www.aapd.com. And for more information on the Disability Equality Index, you can go to www.disabilityequalityindex.org.
Traynham: Helena Berger, the American Association of People with Disabilities -- AAPD -- thank you very much for joining us.
Berger: Thank you so much.
Traynham: And thank you for joining us, as well.For more great conversations with leaders in your community and across the nation,visit comcastnewsmakers.com.I?m Robert Traynham.