When public and private spaces are created, they’re often designed for usability and convenience that don’t always accommodate people with disabilities. Being an employer, you have the power to create an accessible workplace that promotes Disability Culture, demonstrating your commitment to diversity and inclusion.
In this article, we’ll discuss excerpts from John D. Kemp’s book, “Disability Friendly: How to Move from Clueless to Inclusive” and learn how to consider disability as a natural part of life, overcoming barriers to inclusion and broadening our understanding of disability as a whole.
About the author, John D. Kemp
John D. Kemp, Esq. is a highly respected leader in the disability rights movement and an accomplished executive. As a person with a disability, he co-founded the American Association of People with Disabilities. Currently, John serves as the President and CEO of Lakeshore Foundation, an internationally recognized organization promoting opportunities for individuals with physical disabilities. He chairs Delta Air Lines’ Advisory Board on Disability and serves on various other boards, including Galt Foundation.
Over time, John has received prestigious honors such as the Henry B. Betts Award and the Dole Leadership Prize. He is renowned globally for his public speaking, inspiring others through his knowledge and experience. His book, “Disability Friendly: How to Move from Clueless to Inclusive,” advocates for inclusive employment practices.
As an AstroAccess Ambassador, John conducts zero-gravity flight tests to promote inclusive space travel and STEM careers. Alongside being a graduate of Georgetown University and the Washburn University School of Law, he finds immense joy in sharing precious moments with his wife, Sameta, and their family, which includes five grandsons.
Disability Friendly: How to Move from Clueless to Inclusive
In his book, John highlights the untapped potential of employees with disabilities and the need for reasonable accommodations and inclusive environments.
Even with the Americans with Disabilities Act or ADA in place, there’s only a minimal increase of one to two percent in the labor participation of people with disabilities. This is because of the complex barriers people with disabilities face, causing uncertainty and confusion among employers about the spectrum of disabilities.¹
According to him, despite the claim by 90 percent of organizations to prioritize diversity, only 4 percent actually consider disability in their DEI initiatives. This is a significant oversight considering that people with disabilities account for 15 percent of the global population, totaling over 1 billion individuals, the world’s largest minority.
Creating More Inclusive Opportunities
Disability Friendly is a call to recognize and embrace the unique abilities and skills of individuals with disabilities. John draws upon his extensive lived experience to shed light on the obstacles hindering the understanding and inclusion of disabled individuals.
He offers effective strategies to overcome initial unease when interacting with people with disabilities that also provide practical strategies for businesses, educational institutions, government bodies, religious institutions, and other organizations to unlock the potential and valuable contributions of people with disabilities.
1. The Human Experience Naturally Includes Disability
Having a disability can happen to anyone at any time. Gender, race, geographical origin, and socioeconomic status don’t have anything to do with a disability. It’s estimated that 16 percent of the world’s population, about 1.3 billion people are disabled.²
Disabilities have always been a part of human existence, and people with disabilities have contributed significantly to the world throughout history. Some notable examples include:
Ludwig Van Beethoven
Beethoven, recognized as one of the best classical musicians, continued to produce music despite having a hearing impairment that led to hearing loss.
Considered one of the most influential entertainers in the industry has dyslexia and regards herself as “incredibly slow.” Despite her condition, she became a very accomplished actress and even co-hosted “The View.”
Franklin D. Roosevelt
FDR, the 32nd president of the US, contracted polio and was a wheelchair user known for his efforts during the Great Depression, World War II, and the establishment of the United Nations through his diplomatic advocacy that sought lasting peace, promotion of human rights, and global cooperation.
2. Beyond the Corporate Culture, There Is Also a Disability Culture
Just like organizational culture in businesses, Disability Culture stems from a collective set of beliefs and values shaped by the experiences of people with disabilities worldwide. It provides a distinct viewpoint guided by unique values derived from firsthand encounters with disability.
While there were traditional organizations focused on specific disabilities, typically initiated by parents seeking services for their children, it is crucial to recognize the overarching themes that unite individuals with disabilities beyond particular conditions. This recognition forms the bedrock of Disability Culture.
For far too long, people with disabilities have been subjected to charity and pity, with limited opportunities to lead fulfilling lives due to structural and systemic barriers. Overall, society believes that people with disabilities need to be taken care of. According to John, this notion is completely rejected by the disability community. People with disabilities are reclaiming their power, building resilience, and advocating for their rights.
“We are proud of our disability identity, accept it, and we talk about it because it is one of the ways we can get to the point of understanding and acceptance by nondisabled people in this world.” – Dr. John Kemp, Disability Friendly: How to Move from Clueless to Inclusive
Embracing Disability Culture begins with acknowledging people with disabilities belong in all aspects of society and that they have unique perspectives, talents, and contributions. It all boils down to mutual respect by accepting people for who they are rather than allowing common stereotypes to define our views.
3. An Exclusive Environment is About Deliberately Extending Support to All
Inclusivity begins with actions and choices. Today, employees have the upper hand in taking the jobs they want. With the added perks of schedule, salary, benefits, work arrangement, and location, many employees are also attracted to joining companies that address social issues and fight for them.
Many employees, particularly from the younger generations, seek purpose and meaning in their jobs beyond financial compensation. They want to work for organizations that share their values and actively contribute to positive change in the world. This shift in employee expectations has led to a greater demand for companies that take a stand on social issues and actively work toward rectifying social wrongs.
According to John, Rich Bielen, CEO of Protective, is an exemplary leader who dedicates approximately 40 percent of his daily focus to ESG (environmental, social, and governance) concerns, including DEI issues. He aims to lead his company towards sustainability, equitable talent management, and representative governance, focusing on reflecting the diverse communities served by Protective’s insurance products.
These issues are very crucial to employee attraction and retention. In a LinkedIn survey, 76 percent of employees and job seekers mentioned that diversity was important when considering job offers. Furthermore, 60 percent said they want to hear business leaders speak up on diversity issues, and 80 percent want to work for organizations that value DEI issues.³
4. Who You Choose to Work With Can Intensify Your Efforts to Promote Inclusivity
For big companies putting resources behind diversity initiatives, ramping up hiring efforts, or investing in leadership programs or inclusive workshops might not be much of a big deal. However, for small businesses with fewer resources, one way you can commit to being more inclusive is to look for opportunities where you can work with diverse business partners, vendors, and communities.
Hiring and collaborating with individuals from underrepresented groups, including women, minorities, and people with disabilities, not only intensifies your DEI efforts but also provides you with the benefit of tapping into a wider range of skills, knowledge, and opportunities. An alternative approach is collaborating with a campaign or initiative that supports and uplifts individuals from underrepresented communities.
5. Your Business Will Benefit From Disability-Friendly Practices
A study by Accenture, the American Association of People with Disabilities, and Disability:IN found that companies who actively hire people with disabilities had revenues 28 percent higher and 30 percent higher profit margins. A follow-up study discovered that companies focusing on engaging people with disabilities grew their sales thrice while their profits grew over four times faster.⁴
Hiring people with disabilities makes teams happier, motivating them to work harder and may even reduce turnover. For people with disabilities, finding a new employer is already challenging. This is why they tend to be more loyal to companies that welcome them.
CREATE A MORE DIVERSE WORK ENVIRONMENT FOR YOUR TEAM WITH THE HELP OF THE GALT FOUNDATION
Galt Foundation is one of the largest staffing organizations in the world for employees with disabilities. We have over 20 years of experience helping organizations like yours create a more diverse workplace.
We offer customized staffing solutions to support your hiring needs. Get in touch with us. Call us toll-free at 1-877-361-1277 or submit our contact form here.
1. Lanzi, Stephen. “John Kemp Q&A on New Book ‘Disability Friendly’.” The University of Alabama Birmingham, 8 Dec. 2022, www.uab.edu/john-kemp-qa-on-new-book-disability-friendly.
2. “Disability.” World Health Organization, 7 Mar. 2023, www.who.int/disability-and-health.
3. “Why Is Diversity and Inclusion Important?—Diversity in the workplace statistics.” LinkedIn Learning, learning.linkedin.com/diversity-workplace-statistics-dei-importance. 8 July 2023.
4. Dublino, Jennifer. “Why Hiring People With Disabilities Is Good for Business.” Business, 24 Mar. 2023, www.business.com/hire-disabled-people.