Shaping a More Inclusive Workplace

by Kathy Martinez on August 4, 2011 · 310 comments

Today, the Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) will host its first National Diversity Forum at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center,.  This event is part of Add Us In – an initiative with the main goal of identifying and developing strategies to increase employment opportunities for people with disabilities in small business communities.  This specifically entails those located in or serving underrepresented and historically excluded communities, including those owned and operated by ethnic and racial minorities; lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals; veterans; women; and people with disabilities. 

Add Us In is not only a project that is a priority for the department, it is also a project that is very close to my heart.  Like so many of you, my life has been profoundly impacted by my various identities and experiences.  Disability, race, gender and sexual orientation have all shaped the person I am today. 

I faced multiple challenges in becoming successfully employed, as many people with disabilities do.  We are often unable to find sustainable employment opportunities, and struggle to manage prejudice, our own disability related needs and other challenges.  Just like many other underrepresented and historically excluded groups, we bring incredible skills to the workplace; we just need the opportunity to prove ourselves to be motivated and productive employees who contribute to the bottom line.

I think that we can all agree, no matter who you are or where you are from, that work is about dignity and respect.  A critical part of our National Diversity Forum is a Plenary Dialogue including questions around employment strategies for people with disabilities, business hiring practices, resource coordination and sharing, and understanding the role of community supports. Our goal for this Plenary Dialogue is to learn from you and to hear your shared ideas and personal examples that move us forward towards a more inclusive and diverse workforce.

However, I know that not everyone can come to Washington DC or be present at this Forum.  To ensure that participation is possible for everyone, I would like to share with you the six questions that will shape the Plenary Dialogue:

  1. What are key elements of disability hiring that differ between large and small businesses?
  2. What do small businesses need to increase the number of people with disabilities within their ranks of employees?
  3. How can the benefits of diversity (including disability) hiring be better promoted?
  4. How do you suggest coordination between education and employment systems be increased to ensure greater employment for youth with disabilities?
  5. How do you think workforce systems and employment policies can be made more responsive to communities that are culturally and linguistically diverse? 
  6. How can ODEP and employment systems better engage with “influencers” such as family, faith and other community supports in underserved communities?

Please feel free to email me with your feedback at: or post a comment to this blog. I look forward to hearing from you, and together we can lead the way toward creating a more inclusive workplace.

Kathy Martinez is the assistant secretary for the Office of Disability Employment Policy.

{ 310 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Stephanie steward March 11, 2014 at 6:35 pm

I for one commend any efforts at making workplaces more accommodating for all Americans. We as a society have to come to terms with our beliefs and notions regarding the capabilities or abilities of Americans with disabilities. One of the most powerful examples that I have seen in my life, is that of a fellow educator who happened to be wheelchair bound. His tenacity and eternal sense of hope was something that few of us could ever hope to emulate. Unfortunately, I was also there to witness moments that were less than ideal. His not being able to travel from one place to another due to inadequate access points, or faulty ADA compliant equipment. We have a long way to go still, but its definitely a step in the right direction.

2 project training March 12, 2014 at 3:49 pm

i think the advent of virtual teams provides a level set for equality. people with disabilities now have equal access to remote work opportunities.

3 Hayley Clare March 15, 2014 at 2:48 pm

Remote working is a godsend for those who need it. It also allows employers to choose people who are perfectly capable, but otherwise could not make it into the workplace.

4 Michael Clough March 23, 2014 at 6:53 am

Remote working is the way of the future and I think this will increase massively in years to come, just think about some of the major benefits to the environment, workers can stay home and not have to use private or public transport saving valuable fuel and not polluting our air, Another factor is we would need less offices in the cities saving valuable resources.


5 Matt March 26, 2014 at 3:37 am

I think it still has a long way to go. In our side, we can see that people with disabilities everywhere their outstanding work. But we can not deny that there is a lot of work still has limitations. Courageous first step , I believe in the future , everything can become easy.

6 Gokhan March 26, 2014 at 2:07 pm

Disabled people are generally a good role model for all workers. Makes the believe that any kind of trouble can be overcome by working hard.

7 Duncan - Vetter March 30, 2014 at 4:22 am

I think tech companies (such as where I work have to take a certain amount of responsibility about designing products that are more inclusive.

8 Amin March 31, 2014 at 8:27 am

Great articles thanks for sharing. I think hiring people with disabilities is a very good thing.

9 Yacon syrup review April 8, 2014 at 11:26 pm

I think the toughest topic brought up is the lingual barrier workers. There are many jobs that really need to have proper English speaking workers to do the job. What are the real options?

10 aacopiadoras April 13, 2014 at 3:59 pm

More initiatives like this one should exist. Keep the good work!

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