Kirk Adams on the long road to disability inclusion

Industry leaders discuss business disability inclusion at the 2023 Disability:IN Conference

“As we try to think through and look at how we build social cultural environments, physical environments, streetscapes, digital environments, how do we build them so that there are the least disabling situations encountered by people with various impairments?” asks Kirk Adams, Ph.D., managing director, Innovative Impact, LLC.

WorkingNation sat down with Adams at the 2023 Disability:IN Conference in Orlando.

Adams says there is issue around the medical model that a person with an impairment is considered broken. He says the reality is – disability is a social construction that can put a person in a disabling situation, not allowing them to be on the same level.

While progress has been made, Adams says, “Where we’re at in the process of disability inclusion and employment is just at the beginning of a long road.”

“The sad fact remains that if you look at the numbers of workforce participation, [there are] roughly 35% of working age adults with significant disabilities in the workforce – as opposed to about 70% of the general population. If you dig even deeper, of the 35% of us who are working a third of us would say we’re underemployed.”

Adams continues, “We’re in a much narrower band of occupations. We don’t advance up the org chart at the same rate as people without disabilities. Our incomes are lower. A third of blind people live in poverty.”

“I’d say if we’re talking a marathon, 26 miles – maybe we’re on mile two here.”