SEASON 1: EPISODE 06
A Disability Champion On How To Stop Making Assumptions
There are more than 1 billion people with disabilities around the globe, and they have traditionally been an untapped talent pool. For example, only about 21% of working-age people with disabilities are participating in the labor force, as compared to the 69% workforce participation rate for people without disabilities.
Becky Curran Kekula, motivational speaker and Director of Disability Equality Index (DEI) at Disability:IN, is working to change that. In this episode of Breaking the Bias, Becky shares her experiences in the workplace and living with dwarfism, as well as how she is combating bias and driving inclusion for those with disabilities. Listen to the conversation here and read on for some key takeaways.
BE WILLING TO LISTEN
“My parents are average height. Most little people are born to average height parents. My parents took the initiative to not treat me differently than anyone else. They wanted my average height older sister and I to have a strong relationship, and I think it’s instilling the values from an early age to be a good person, help others, be kind, and not trying to understand what everyone’s going through on a day-to-day basis, but instead be willing to listen.”
KNOW THAT DISABILITY DOES NOT DISCRIMINATE
“Disability is the one category that anyone could fall into at any point in their life. People don’t want to admit it. They don’t want to take ownership of that fact. But if you get to know and embrace the disability community, it’s not as daunting once that may happen.”
ASK QUESTIONS TO REDUCE ASSUMPTIONS
“There’s so much assuming going on. For example, when people think about accommodation costs, they think it’s going to be thousands and thousands of dollars and that’s why they can’t hire someone. Really most accommodations cost less than $500. So ask those questions and do the research.”
ACCOMMODATE FOR SUCCESS
“In an ideal world, 20% of the workforce includes disability, because that’s how the world is represented. However, the numbers are low and the unemployment rate is still high. We’re approaching the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which was a huge legislation that allowed people with disabilities to have protection in the workplace and receive the accommodations that they may need to successfully do the job. A lot of people with disabilities aren’t going to ask for more than they need. People want reasonable accommodations to feel comfortable and successful and confident to do their job well.”
“Another contributor to the high unemployment rate for people with disabilities is that people aren’t actively looking because they don’t see people like them represented in the workforce. We need to continue to break down those assumptions as well. Just because someone who looks like you is not working, doesn’t mean you can’t work.”
FIND A MENTOR
“Just because one person says no to someone or tells you that you can’t do something doesn’t mean that you can’t. It’s important to get perspectives from multiple people. Find a mentor in the workplace who can be the person to advocate on your behalf, and help you figure out how to turn that no into a yes.”