United Nations

By Tatiana Peralta

At SourceAmerica, we work year-round to connect professionals with disabilities to meaningful employment through our network of member nonprofit agencies. This is why we're excited to once again join the United Nations in celebrating in this year's International Day of Persons with Disabilities. This year’s theme is focused on the participation of persons with disabilities and their leadership: taking action on the 2030 agenda.

SourceAmerica Vice President of Workforce Development Shane Kanady recently participated in the U.N.’s International Labour Organization (ILO) Global Business and Disability Network summit on the future of work. He was joined by a panel of academic, nonprofit, and social innovation leaders committed to building a more inclusive workforce where persons with disabilities are afforded the same access to meaningful work as their non-disabled peers. While he was there, he presented on inclusive policy frameworks in response to the trends shaping the future labor market.

He focused on two key points:

  • Key point 1: We must all challenge the longstanding assumption that persons with disabilities cannot contribute, economically and socially, on par with their non-disabled peers.
  • Key point 2: We must recognize that, because of assumptions related to the contributions of persons with disabilities, labor market policies are often exclusionary and do not serve the disability community.

Kanady explained that, in response to these points, it is necessary to reset the baseline concept of who is represented in the labor market and should benefit from the policies shaping the future of work. He shared three actions that we can take toward resetting the baseline:

  • Action 1: Engage policymakers to demonstrate how their work impacts the disability community – often unintentionally and negatively. This engagement should be supported by research and tangible examples; the goal is to inform their perspective and help shape policy language to be more inclusive.
  • Action 2: Work in collaboration with, or better still, under the leadership of persons with disabilities to design interventions based on their desires for the future. Often, groups who should serve as enablers of others end up speaking on their behalf rather than building leadership capacity within the community.
  • Action 3: Address the stigmas associated with the social identity of persons with disabilities. Through our advocacy, we must avoid the extremes of sympathetic characters or heroes overcoming adversity. Instead, we must strive to depict disability as a natural part of the human experience. It is not about the non-disabled majority versus the "other." This is a subject that touches everyone.

The future of work is an "evergreen" topic because it's about what is ahead of us. However, people will tire of the continuous speculation and expect action. Policymakers are already moving in this direction. We need to empower persons with disabilities and include them in the conversation. Unless they are represented, they will not experience the benefits of legislation aimed at equipping workers for the future.

Kanady's remarks are a reminder that we can't afford to stand by and retrospectively study the impact communities are feeling. We must intervene and ensure there is equal consideration for persons with disabilities in the future labor market. It's a message that resonates with the theme of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities.

We're proud to join the U.N. in focusing on the empowerment of persons with disabilities for inclusive, equitable, and sustainable development. Learn more here.