Since I only have 5 minutes to give this speech, and since it takes my Cerebral Palsy / New York accent longer than 5 minutes just to say ‘thank you,’ I’ve asked Antoinette Bobbitt, the Operation Manager of Abilicorp, to read it for me.
I want to thank Comcast and the Bay Area News Group for having this great event. I am very proud that after a wonderful 29-year career at Wells Fargo, I retired to start Abilicorp. Abilicorp is an employment agency that focuses on employing people with disabilities. Today, however, I want to promote The World Institute on Disability (WID).
WID is an internationally recognized public policy center started in 1983 by leaders of the Independent Living Movement. I was on the founding board, and I am proud to be back on the board. In its early years, WID had tremendous success assisting governments as well as the private sector, implement laws and policies that protected the civil rights of people with disabilities, both domestically and internationally. WID, for example, played a significant role in the passage and implementation of the Americans with Disability Act.
WID stands for the belief that there is no social inclusion without economic equity and economic inclusion. Disability policy experts and people with disabilities agree that even as the ADA has leveled the playing field in areas such as voting, education, and activities of daily living, the rate of employment and economic participation of people with disabilities has not budged in over four decades. Over 70% of the 54 million Americans with disabilities are unemployed or under-employed. What a waste of talent and human potential. Being a member of both the disability community and the corporate community, I know firsthand the importance of fully participating in work and the thrill that goes along with doing so. Sadly, most societies, including ours, still equates disability with an inability to work rather than a challenge to figure out how to work. We too often reward people for not working rather than determining how they can work.
This paradigm has to change! The way we think about employment for people with disabilities, disability benefits, and economic independence has to change. By bringing together people with disabilities with government leaders, business leaders, economists, technologists, teachers, etc., I firmly believe that the work WID is performing will lead the way to break through this barrier to economic independence.
I urge all of you to find out more about the great work that goes on at The World Institute on Disability and support their efforts. WID is a partner of The Ed Roberts Campus (ERC). The ERC is aptly named after the Father of the Disability Movement and houses several agencies; their sole purpose, to ensure that people with disabilities can live independently and without discrimination. The grand opening of this beautiful building, on April 9th, would be an excellent opportunity to learn more about WID.