Group of women accessible leaders with apparent and non-apparent disabilities wearing business professional attire and standing in front of a podium

Pictured here (L to R): Sara Basson, Accessibility Evangelist, Accessible Googler experience team, President, Disability Alliance Google; Alison Neplokh, Manager, Public Policy, Facebook; Megan Lawrence, Ph.D., Accessibility Technical Evangelist, Microsoft; Ann Cody, Special Advisor, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, U.S. Department of State; Leslie Wilson, VP Workplace Initiatives, Disability:IN; Jill Houghton, President & CEO, Disability:IN; Laurie Henneborn, Accenture Research Managing Director.

Sideline event for 12th session of the Conference of States Parties (COSP)

On June 12, 2019, Disability:IN partnered with the United States Department of State in coordinating a Business Executives Roundtable on Global Disability Inclusionin New York City.  Hosted by the United States Mission to the United Nations during the 12th Session of the Conference of State Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the Roundtable featured an overview of the findings of the Getting to Equal research report and a panel of corporate global best practices.

The event was moderated by Ann Cody, Special Advisor, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, U.S. Department of State.  Ms. Cody opened the morning by introducing Ambassador Cherith Norman Chalet, U.S. Mission to the United Nations, who provided welcoming remarks.  Ambassador Norman Chalet underscored her work to ensure increased accessibility to the United Nations itself, a theme that was also underscored by Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, during his comments the previous day.

Next, Jill Houghton, Disability:IN CEO/President, opened the first spotlight session, The Disability Inclusion Advantage, and introduced the session’s featured speaker, Laurie Henneborn, Managing Research Director for Accenture.  Ms. Henneborn spoke about her personal journey of self-disclosure in an eloquent manner that emphasized the importance of building a culture of acceptance and inclusion.  She framed this as self-disclosure vs. non-disclosure in saying that “non-disclosure in general perpetuates a workplace that is disabled in its own way.”

To expand upon her point, Ms. Henneborn then provided a high-level review of the findings in Getting to Equal: The Disability Inclusion Advantage, a research report published jointly by Accenture, Disability:IN and the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD).  The researchers, lead by Ms. Henneborn, analyzed four years of data and discovered that companies that champion disability inclusion are two times more likely to outperform their peers in terms of total shareholder return.  Moreover, the research also determined that once companies start being disability inclusion champions and improve in their inclusion work they are four times more likely to outperform their peers in terms of shareholder return.   The 45 companies that were outperforming peers tended to “get to equal” through the four steps that are outlined in the report:

  1. Employ: Start your disability employment program.
  2. Enable: Provide the technology, tools and adjustments to support the productivity of your employees with disabilities.
  3. Engage: Provide awareness, education and support for employee resource groups.
  4. Empower: Provide mentoring, coaching and skilling programs to support the advancement and retention of talent with disabilities.

Next, Leslie Wilson, Disability:IN Vice President for Workplace Initiatives, moderated a corporate executives panel featuring the following speakers:

  • Alison Neplokh, Manager, Public Policy, Facebook
  • Sara Basson, Accessibility Evangelist, Accessible Googler Experience Team, President Disability Alliance Google
  • Megan Lawrence, PhD., Accessibility Technical Evangelist, Microsoft

Highlights from the panel included:

  • As part of Diversity @ Facebook, Facebook’s disability business resource group has champions around the world. The groups have positively impacted hiring in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) and supported the use of sourcing partners to identify and hire talent with disabilities in Brazil, Korea and Japan.
  • At Google, a focus on accessibility has helped the company move products forward to help people with disabilities around the globe, including Live Transcribe, Live Captions, and Artificial Intelligence to assist with image recognition for individuals with visual disabilities and Euphonia speech recognition to assist individuals with speech disabilities in accessing voice-controlled systems.
  • For best practices in recruiting, Microsoft’s pipeline for technology talent, including their Autism@Work and University of Illinois autism program, were described. Furthermore, Microsoft’s global centralized accommodations fund and supporting policy and the “Count Me In” self-identification campaign were also mentioned as pivotal models for moving Microsoft’s global disability employment and inclusion forward.

While the strategies that were discussed above were unique, a common theme that developed was how employees with disabilities and allies all have the opportunity to influence business. From hackathons and presentations with the CEO on disability inclusion and business imperatives, to influencing products and processes, employees from Facebook, Google and Microsoft are sharing their disability experiences to have a global impact on planning, process, design and more.

Following the panel an open question and answer session from the attendees was moderated by Ms. Cody with engagement from non-governmental organizations, corporations, university-based research organizations and service providers from a variety of locations. The dialogue centered on bridging the corporate disability inclusion work with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals.

Disability:IN is committed to bringing inclusion across the globe. To learn more about our Initiatives, visit our web page: