Ted Kennedy Jr., co-chair of the Disability Equality Index and a board member of the American Association of People with Disabilities, told CNBC that changing corporate attitudes toward remote and hybrid working will make more people possible in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic enter work with disabilities.
The US Disability Equality Index describes itself as the leading benchmarking tool for companies, measuring and disclosing the efforts of participating companies to include disability.
“Hybrid work and remote work are just some of the options that many people with disabilities have asked about. So we believe that companies’ views on remote working will now enable more people with disabilities to enter the labor market, ”he said.
“They will find it easier to accommodate, for example, someone with limited mobility who is difficult to get to and from work … Many employers are now looking for it because of the tight labor market.” Large untapped workforce of people with disabilities, “he continued .
Over 1 billion people worldwide live with disabilities today.
On the latest episode of CNBC’s “Finding Solutions,” Kennedy, who is himself a “pediatric bone cancer survivor and amputee,” also said that disability inclusion has become “the next chapter in the ESG.” [environmental, social and governance] Corporate Social Responsibility “, with evidence that companies that are leaders in this field actually outperform their competitors.
In 2018, Accenture partnered with Disability: IN and the American Association of People with Disabilities on the Getting To Equal: The Disability Inclusion Advantage report to provide new research on companies adding people with disabilities to their workforce.
“So this report has been comparing the hundreds of companies involved in DEI with those that haven’t and is returning over time,” Kennedy told CNBC.
The DEI is a joint initiative of AAPD and Disability: IN, which describes itself as “the leading nonprofit resource on disability inclusion worldwide”.
Jill Houghton, President and CEO of Disability: IN, also told CNBC’s Finding Solutions that more advances in business are needed, even though 2021 will be 31 years since the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed to address discrimination against people banning with disabilities in several areas including employment.
“We are advocating tools like the Disability Equality Index because there is still so much to do to create cultures where people with disabilities are not only included but can be proud of a disability’s strength in business,” said she .
“[It] deals with topics such as culture and leadership, company-wide access, employment practices, community engagement, supplier diversity, and activities outside the United States. It contains weighted and unweighted questions and is designed to help companies identify specific actions that they can take company-wide to include people with disabilities, “she added.
NEW YORK, NY – DECEMBER 06: Edward Kennedy Jr. speaks on stage during RFK Human Rights ?? Ripple of Hope Awards honoring VP Joe Biden, Howard Schultz & Scott Minerd in New York City. (Photo by Kevin Mazur / Getty Images for RFK Ripple of Hope)
Kevin Mazur | Getty Images Entertainment | Getty Images
In August, the US Securities and Exchange Commission approved plans by Nasdaq to have its listed companies publish their diversity stats at board level.
According to Nasdaq, “The rules would also require that most Nasdaq-listed companies have at least two different directors or explain why they don’t, including one who identifies themselves as female and one who describes themselves as underrepresented Minority or LGBTQ +. “
People with disabilities were not included in the new diversity rules.
Kennedy told CNBC, “We are very disappointed [with the decision], we will not give up”.
When asked how harmful this was to his work and if it felt like a snub, he said, “Well, it feels like a snub, but we’re playing the long game and we have to remember how we’re sitting here and have this conversation that it wasn’t long ago that we talked about gender diversity on boards and now, at least in the United States, it is really unthinkable to have a corporate board without a member of a racial or ethnic minority in theirs Company board, “he said.
“So the disability rights movement … for many years, for many decades, I would say piggybacking on the rights movements that went before us; the civil rights movement of the 1960s, the women’s movement, the gay rights movement and now the disability rights movement,” he added.
Kennedy’s father, Ted Kennedy, was a US Senator and a “major advocate of civil rights for people with disabilities.”
Kennedy said his father and uncles, including former US President John F. Kennedy, saw his aunt Rosemary, who he believed lived with an “intellectual disability,” often ignored and mistreated.
“I think that really inspired my family’s interest, action and energy and the civil rights cause because I think they saw the injustice of everything and really wanted to do whatever it takes to address these changes for many, many Part of the Kennedy family ethics for years, “he said.
When asked about her message to companies that are not yet fully inclusive on their boards, Jill Houghton told CNBC, “The time is now, don’t wait … employees and your customers and your investors.”