Diversity Across Disability

By Jason Golden 03/03/2021
Diversity Across Disability

Diversity in the workplace is a major part of establishing an organization’s culture. Many companies have staff-led diversity focus groups that highlight the importance of this critical aspect of any organization’s success through their own grassroots efforts. Others have dedicated departments and resources to focus on diversity-related topics. The SourceAmerica Diversity and Inclusion Council is a successful example of an employee-led effort managed by volunteers from across several business units at SourceAmerica®. Monthly newsletters, training, and engagement opportunities are among the popular offerings from this dedicated group of colleagues who have full-time jobs focusing on the SourceAmerica mission of increasing job opportunities for people with disabilities across the nation.

But what about diversity within the disability community? It has never been more important to recognize the diverse, intersectional identities within the disability community. The estimated 1 billion people with disabilities across the globe are represented across all ages, economic and education levels, ethnicities, gender identities, and races. Anyone, at any time, can ‘join’ the disability community as a result of an accident, illness, aging, or man-made or natural disaster.

While the workforce is constantly evolving and adapting to societal needs and requirements, people with disabilities are often the ones who are left behind despite the emphasis on corporate responsibility. The COVID-19 pandemic facilitating a mass move toward a highly-remote workforce is one example of that. The reaction to the pandemic in the job market has not been kind to this incredibly diverse – and talented – segment of the workforce. According to Global Disability Inclusion, nearly 40% of people with disabilities have been laid off or otherwise forced out of work due to the pandemic and its resulting economic instability. This study aligns with the National Trends in Disability Employment (nTIDE) jobs report for January 2021 that demonstrates how employment numbers for people with disabilities are still well below where they were prior to the pandemic.

Despite these obstacles, silver linings are still evident. Meaningful work continues in many locations across the country. Miami, Florida and El Paso, Texas are among the most diverse areas in the nation, with approximately 1 million Spanish-speaking households across those two metropolitan areas. Two of the approximately 700 nonprofit agencies within the SourceAmerica network are located in these cities - Goodwill Industries of South Florida, and ReadyOne Industries. A significant number of people with disabilities are employed at each location and perform critical work through the AbilityOne® Program, one of the nation’s largest sources of employment for people who are blind or have significant disabilities.

Over the past few months, SourceAmerica spoke with some of the employees about their work supporting projects like the manufacturing of personal protective equipment and uniforms for the nation’s military. Videos produced from these conversations not only tell a compelling story about the impact that people with disabilities are providing in the workplace, but also the vast diversity within these amazing teams.

Both the Global Disability Inclusion and nTIDE reports suggest the effects of the pandemic continue to tangibly affect people with disabilities. The bottom line is that the most diverse group of people on the planet must be part of the conversation as the nation continues to find its footing with the new set of norms required by the presence of COVID-19.

For additional information about SourceAmerica and to learn more about how SourceAmerica supports the creation of job opportunities for people with disabilities, please contact customerservice@sourceamerica.org.