Including People With Disabilities Drives Innovation

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy recently announced “Inclusion Drives Innovation” as the theme of National Disability Employment Awareness Month in October 2017.

According to U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta,
“Americans of all abilities must have access to good, safe jobs. Smart employers know that including different perspectives in problem-solving situations leads to better solutions. Hiring employees with diverse abilities strengthens their business, increases competition, and drives innovation.”

The Santa Monica Disabilities Commission supports this objective as we advance belonging as a fundamental component to wellbeing in Santa Monica. Employers play a critical role in helping to dismantle inequality by incorporating qualified applicants with disabilities into their workplaces.

Looking locally, there are strong examples of companies that see inclusion as part and parcel to their innovative edge. And we encourage more inclusive practices. Santa Monica’s “Silicon Beach” employs more than 25,000 workers in tech and creative industries. AmazonPWD emphasizes the importance of recruiting and hiring people with disabilities and partners with organizations who share these values.

Microsoft’s annual company event, the Ability Summit, is sponsored by their disAbility Employee Resource Group of international employees with disabilities to propose innovative solutions to questions of both physical and societal accessibility to help develop full potential.

Google also works to not just provide reasonable accommodations but to go above and beyond to provide accommodations that fully develop employee potential. These employers exemplify how inclusion drives innovation to dismantle disability as the measure of poverty and inequality.
We applaud initiatives like these, but when you look at national statistics, there’s more work to do. The rate of participation for people with disabilities in the workforce was 21% as of July 2017 (U.S. Department of Labor), compared to 69% for able bodied people.

Additionally, a 2014 report by the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions revealed, “Twice as many Americans with disabilities live in poverty compared to those without disabilities.” This is the definition of an urgent crisis.
Inclusion drives innovation by giving persons with disabilities a place at the table to develop a meaningful career and contribute a new perspective to the workplace.

Inclusion exchanges fear, skepticism and low expectations for the opportunity to demonstrate talents and expertise. Inclusion drives innovation by disrupting the cycle of poverty in the life of a person with a disability, improving their quality of life and broadening views and range of experiences of their team members.
Let’s work together to be inclusive so we can maintain our innovative edge in Santa Monica.
By Santa Monica Disabilities Commission Vice Chair, Marielle Kriesel on behalf of the Santa Monica Disabilities Commission.