What do a professional skier, a Hollywood consultant and a business blogger have in common? A disability, of course. On Tuesday I attended the Disability Innovation Forum in Washington, and met a great group of people who are leading the conversation on hiring and marketing to people with disabilities. The keynote speaker was Bonnie St. John, an African-American leg amputee who became a Paralympic medalist in downhill skiing in 1984. Using comedy and an authenic voice, Bonnie broke down the sterotypes surrounding disability and made everyone in the room feel comfortable. The forum was organized by Working Mother Media‘s Diversity Best Practices division, with the help of Jonathan Kaufman of DisabilityWorks. An education and policy extraordinaire, Jonathan told me he’s about to begin creating a ph.D program in Disability Studies at Columbia University’s medical school. He also consults with Hollywood on movies that feature disabled characters. Some lively afternoon panels included executives from Wal-Mart, Verizon and Harrah’s Entertainment, who offered their perspectives on hiring the disabled to shore up a worker shortage and build a more representative workplace culture. Jennifer Croft at the U.S. Dept. of Commerce emphasized the Clinton-era Executive Order 13173, which President-elect Obama will reinstate, that will require federal goverment to hire 100,000 workers with disabilities in the next five years. A very successful day, indeed.
Innovative Ideas from the Disability Forum
November 12 2008 | by Suzanne Robitaille