"The city you live in can have an enormous impact on your quality of life – especially if you have a disability. From wheelchair accessible sidewalks to employment options to the weather itself, there are a variety of characteristics that can determine whether your hometown is a good place to live.
So how disability-friendly is your city?
This could depend on the kind of special needs you have. A lot of city features just might not be as important for you as others. State and local laws will also be a factor. As a minimum, the American with Disabilities Act requires that state and local governments make their programs and services easily accessible to people with disabilities. With that said, it doesn’t mean that all cities and states are alike. Some places may go out of their way to make themselves more appealing to people who happen to be disabled, while other cities might barely do what’s legally required of them. Whether you’re looking to move to a new city that’s great for a person with a handicap or you’re curious to see how accommodating your hometown is, this checklist will help you figure that out. We’ll cover the 77 features that can make your city or town disability-friendly."
Imagine what would happen if all the Texans with disabilities voted in the 2018 election.
As Chieko Asakawa walks around IBM’s campus, she explores new ways of getting from point A to point B. She recognizes the faces of colleagues approaching her and greets them. She reads snack labels and decides whether to eat them. Although she is blind, Asakawa doesn’t need a human or canine companion to complete these tasks. She’s helped invent a smartphone app that, as she explained in a recent TED talk, “understands our surrounding world and whispers to me in voice or sends a vibration to my fingers. Eventually, I’ll be able to find a classroom on campus, enjoy window shopping, or find a nice restaurant while walking along a street.”
Asakawa has been able to turn her disability into a professional asset, to the commercial benefit of her employers. But many people with disabilities enter workplaces that don’t enable them to do the same.
A new study from the Center for Talent Innovation (CTI) found that, according to the 2015 US government’s definition of disability, a significant portion of the white-collar workforce has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity: 30% of a nationally representative survey of 3,570 white-collar employees. The numbers are similar across gender, race, and generation. Not only do employees with disabilities comprise a large talent pool, it’s a remarkably innovative one: 75% of them report having an idea that would drive value for their company (versus 66% of employees without disabilities). Yet, we find, individuals with disabilities frequently encounter workplace discrimination, bias, exclusion, and career plateaus—meaning their employers lose out on enormous innovation and talent potential.
Many people are surprised to learn that such a high rate of employees have disabilities, because they generally assume that “disability” means having an obvious physical condition. However, close to two-thirds of the study’s respondents have a disability which, while included under the federal definition, is invisible. These might include diseases like lupus or Crohn’s, whose flare-ups are incapacitating; migraines, which can cause temporary blindness; mood disorders like depression; learning disabilities like dyslexia; developmental differences like autism; and other forms of neurodiversity. Some 62% say that unless they deliberately disclose their disability, most people have no idea it exists.
Counseled by family, friends, or even employment attorneys to keep silent for fear of discrimination, only 21% of employees with disabilities disclose to HR that they have one. And they’re right to be so hesitant. More than a third of survey respondents with disabilities say they have experienced negative bias while working at their current companies—and the more visible the disability, the more likely the bias. Whether intentionally or not, people exclude their colleagues with disabilities by misjudging them and underestimating their intelligence, insulting them, avoiding them, or making them feel uncomfortable by staring at them or refusing to meet their eyes.
Employees with disabilities report strengths such as persistence, discipline, and willingness to commit, but feel employers don’t see this potential. Among the 75% of employees with disabilities who say they have market-worthy ideas, 48% say their ideas went ignored by people with the power to act on them, 57% feel stalled in their careers, and 47% feel they would never achieve a position of power at their company, no matter how high-performing or qualified they are. In interviews, we heard that individuals with disabilities face deep stigma and bias (whether conscious or not) from colleagues and managers. One millennial survey respondent confessed, “I’ve been here for six years without a promotion, even though my performance is excellent. I can’t prove that my cerebral palsy has played into that, but the fact is, you never see executives with physical disabilities in the industry.”
But there are ways to remove the challenges faced by people with disabilities and open up innovative opportunities. Our research shows that the same inclusive leadership behaviorsthat leverage diversity to drive innovation and market growth can enable managers to support individuals with disabilities. These behaviors include ensuring that everyone on a team gets heard, giving actionable feedback, empowering team members to make decisions, and making it safe to propose novel ideas. Employees with disabilities who have inclusive team leaders are 36% less likely to face bias (compared to those without such managers), 14% less likely to repress themselves at work, and 32% less likely to feel stalled in their careers. And they are more likely to have their ideas endorsed.
But teaching managers to display inclusive leadership behaviors is just the first step. Companies also need to create a culture of support and inclusion by doing the following:
- Provide training. Many new employees with disabilities need support to get up to speed, but their colleagues and managers may not know how to help them—or have the patience to do it. Companies should put systems in place to help not only individuals with disabilities, but their managers and peers as well. In its strategy to help employees with disabilities build long-term careers, Unilever partnered with Connecticut’s Department of Rehabilitation Services and Southeastern Employment Services to launch a training and placement program. The program provides training for customer service analysts and regional distribution coordinators—two entry-level positions with frequent openings — as well as disability sensitivity training to existing employees to help them best support colleagues with disabilities. The goal is to train 20 to 30 employees with disabilities annually with a 50% conversion rate to full-time positions.
- Offer leadership development opportunities to employees with disabilities.Unconscious bias can cause managers to overlook people with disabilities for leadership programs. To combat this, managers can create development options specifically targeted toward these individuals—and include them in opportunities that already exist and are open to different talent cohorts. For example, Abilities in Motion, KPMG’s employee resource group for employees with disabilities and those with family members who have disabilities, launched an initiative two years ago to give the firm’s employees with disabilities an opportunity to hone their leadership skills. The initiative connects aspiring leaders with disabilities to senior leaders within the firm who offer advice and counsel. These individuals also attend KPMG’s “Inspiring Change, Influencing Inclusion” leadership development conference, where they participate in workshops and panels with senior leaders with a focus on building executive presence and leadership skills.
- Provide role models. A prominent executive with a disability makes it easier for others with disabilities to see themselves in leadership positions at their companies. For those who don’t have or have had less experience with people with disabilities, such role models help shape their perceptions and assumptions about what a leader looks like. Mark Bertolini, chair and CEO of Aetna, had a ski accident that severely damaged his spinal cord. After the accident, he insisted on returning to work, using a special chair to support his neck, a one-handed keyboard, a couch for rest when needed, and other accommodations. He continues to speak openly about the ongoing chronic pain caused by the accident to act as a role model and show others what’s possible.
- Create allies in the organization. Encourage employees to speak up and show their sympathy especially colleagues who are familiar with the challenges faced by people with disabilities either through personal relationships or caregiving. Shaun Kelly, global chief operating officer of KPMG International, makes a point of speaking publicly about being a caregiver to his daughter, who has Down Syndrome: “The stigma seems to go away because there’s somebody in a leadership role who is comfortable talking about it.”
For too long, companies have viewed employees with disabilities through the lens of compliance and accommodation. There’s no better time to start to look at disability through a different lens: of inclusion and infinite possibility.
Image: Tim Walker for BoF By BoF Team May 4, 2018 22:04 "Fashion has been an industry that I've long felt excluded from, despite being incredibly passionate about its transformational opportunity and ability to really change people and conversations and culture," Sinéad Burke, the three-and-a-half-foot activist, tells Imran Amed.
By JACQUIELYNN FLOYD Special to The Eagle
Apr 16, 2018
To most of us, it’s unthinkable that a loving parent might wish — might pray — to outlive a cherished son or daughter.
It’s horrifying to imagine a parent making sure of it by murdering that child.
No motive has been made clear, and none may ever be, to explain why a former Lucas City Council member strangled his disabled adult daughter last week before taking his own life.
But the tragedy fits a pattern familiar to aging parents who have devoted their lives to caring for a profoundly disabled child — and who view the future with growing fear.
“They all say the same thing: They hope their child will die before them,” said Laura Warren, executive director of Texas Parent to Parent, a nonprofit that advocates for families with disabled kids of all ages. “That’s just not realistic.”
On April 8, 58-year-old Donald Zriny strangled his 26-year-old daughter, Amanda, and then hanged himself in the family’s semi-rural Collin County home.
Acquaintances say Zriny, who served on the Lucas City Council — Lucas is just northeast of Plano — from 2005 to 2012, was the main caretaker for Amanda, who was born with severe disabilities. She was unable to walk, speak, read or write, and was entirely dependent on her parents, according to court records.
Zriny’s wife, Amanda’s mother, discovered the bodies and frantically called police. She has since declined to comment; a woman who answered the phone at the family residence hung up when I called.
What could you say about such a nightmare? That no one possibly can understand? That fear and despair can push a decent and loving person over a cliff?
“It probably happens more than you think,” said Parent to Parent’s Warren, herself the mother of an adult son with disabilities.
Decades after the routine practice of permanent institutionalization for developmentally and intellectually disabled children first was challenged and then largely phased out, we still do a piecemeal job providing services to kids with disabilities.
But some parents are distraught to find that those piecemeal services get much more scarce when those children “age out” of the state mandate to provide educational services — usually at 18 or 21, Warren said.
“It’s like falling into a black hole,” Warren said. “(Your child) leaves high school, you’re in a world that doesn’t make sense. The services and the help are gone.”
The group Warren heads works to make connections between families of disabled children, decreasing the isolation they too often experience.
There are other services available, but they can be scarce and hard to find. And the waiting lists can last for years.
“Texas has to be one of the worst states for public funding for this,” Warren said. Surprise.
But there are tragedies borne of private desperation elsewhere, too. One prominent case involved a Chicago-area woman named Bonnie Liltz who killed her severely disabled 28-year-old daughter, Courtney, in 2015.
Frightened that her own recurring cancer would leave her unable to care for her daughter, Liltz killed Courtney with a lethal overdose of medication through her feeding tube. The two had lived alone for years in a small apartment, where they slept on twin beds in the same room so Liltz could always be at her daughter’s side.
A judge sentenced Liltz to four years in prison, even though prosecutors themselves recommended probation. Last year, while free pending an appeal, Liltz took her own life.
“(F)ar too many families with a member with a disability are not prepared for the future, or are frightened by what the future may look like,” wrote Peter Berns, CEO of Arc of the United States, an advocacy group for Americans with intellectual challenges.
That fear, that relentless anxiety, is reflected in online message boards for families of disabled adults: “We worry about the future.” “I don’t know what I’m going to do.” “My parents have done nothing to set things up for my brother’s care.”
We all want to believe that in this more enlightened post-institutional era, developmentally and intellectually disabled Americans are contented and accepted members of their own communities.
We want to think that with a quick internet search or a phone call, the support services they and their families need can be accessed easily.
Usually, that is a fantasy. Families describe full-time struggles with government agencies, a chronic lack of respite care, scarce availability of in-care assistance.
“The need for competent help is daunting,” said the Philadelphia Inquirer in a compelling series on this issue published late last year.
In Florida, where a large elderly population means more aging caretakers, families are desperate: “We hear again and again, ‘I am in my 80s and (the child) is in their 60s,” said Rich LaBelle, a family advocate. They only solution they see, he said, is this: “‘All I can hope is they pass away before I do.’”
Think about it: These are parents who have provided decades of daily care for children who will never be able to live on their own. And the best they can hope for is to outlive those children, to see them die.
If that’s the best hope they have, then shame on us all.
Jacquielynn Floyd writes for The Dallas Morning News.