WASHINGTON – Despite societal calls for greater inclusion in the workplace and the proliferation of assistive technologies, 80 percent of Americans with disabilities remain left out of today's workforce. In response to this staggering employment crisis, SourceAmerica and the National Council of SourceAmerica Employers launched the Social Enterprises of the Future Initiative to address barriers to employment, impact meaningful change and expand work opportunities in collaboration with people with disabilities. This initiative is a cornerstone of SourceAmerica's commitment to advancing the Inclusion EconomyTM, which recognizes the economic and social value of all abilities in today's workforce.
"Americans with disabilities — our largest and most diverse minority group — are invaluable assets to the U.S. economy," said Steve Soroka, SourceAmerica president and CEO. "Through this initiative, we hope to create a national coalition in support of an Inclusion Economy, which delivers greater opportunity and choice to all people with disabilities in tomorrow's workplace."
As part of this initiative, SourceAmerica and NCSE joined forces to release the first two reports in a comprehensive five-part series designed to shape the future of work. The first report, "The Future of Work and the Disability Community," which was developed independently by SourceAmerica, focuses on trends affecting workplace inclusion of people with disabilities and the impact of technology on the changing nature of work. The second report, "Social Enterprises of the Future: A Collective Response," represents a year-long engagement with the disability community. This report offers new innovative employment models to adapt to today's rapidly changing workplace landscape.
Initially spearheaded by SourceAmerica and the NCSE, the resulting employment models were ultimately led by the passion and perspective of people with disabilities from across the country. Through ongoing engagement with more than 200 nonprofits nationwide and with equal participation by people with disabilities, this initiative aims to grow a national movement in support of new, innovative employment models. SourceAmerica plans to increase participation in this effort to include lawmakers, industry leaders, academia and the broad diversity of the disability community.
"This is an important starting point of discussion regarding how the disability community must adapt to the changing world. It is essential we place people with disabilities at the center of this ongoing conversation," said Carol Carr, NCSE president.
Key findings on emerging trends from "The Future of Work and the Disability Community" report include:
- People with disabilities continue to maintain a 40 percent lower labor force participation rate than the general population, which contributes to ongoing inclusion and economic disparities.
- Societal sentiment and public policy are driving pressure for inclusion and competitive integrated employment, yet simultaneously creating strains on existing employment systems.
- Predictions of those most likely to experience negative consequences due to technological factors match the generalized profile of people with disabilities in the United States.
The "Social Enterprises of the Future: A Collective Response" report outlines several initial operational models to shape the future of work and expand employment opportunities, including:
- Inclusion consulting, which focuses on employing people with disabilities as expert advisors to companies to support diversity and inclusion initiatives. No one is better positioned to help others create a culture of inclusion than persons with disabilities, leading to increased opportunities for the entire community.
- Accessibility consulting, like inclusion consulting, people with disabilities have important firsthand knowledge of navigating a largely inaccessible world. Combining talent, interest and unique perspective, people with disabilities can find sustainable employment in the technology sector while improving the accessibility of products and services for everyone.
- Connecting abilities, the disability community must find ways to utilize current and emerging technology to modernize their approaches. Creating an inclusive labor exchange, using technology to aid the matching process, can lead to greater awareness, efficiency and more successful outcomes.
Full reports can be found here: https://www.sourceamerica.org/future-of-work. The Social Enterprises of the Future Initiative will be publishing its next studies, "Practices for Sustained Social Impact, Market Perspectives and Policy Perspectives," later this summer. To further this important discussion, SourceAmerica is convening panels of experts and advocates representing various market sectors.
People with disabilities, whose perspective is critical in designing viable workplace models, will play a leading role in advancing this initiative.
Key findings from the first two reports will be highlighted at the The Future of Work and Inclusion panel, scheduled Tuesday, May 8 at SourceAmerica's National Training and Achievement Conference in Indianapolis (www.sourceamerica.org/conference). Among those participating in the discussion will be experts on disability employment and inclusion from such leading organizations as Special Olympics, The Aspen Institute Future of Work Initiative, The United States International Council on Disability, G3ict and SourceAmerica.
This conference panel is a continuation of discussion started at a congressional briefing with bi-partisan support last November to improve lawmakers' understanding of workplace issues affecting the disability community. Hosted by Reps. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., and Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., on Capitol Hill, the briefing featured disability advocates in addition to executives from Special Olympics, The Viscardi Center and SourceAmerica.