The National Organization on Disability

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News & Events

Every day, the National Organization on Disability (NOD) works toward achieving its mission to expand the participation and contribution of America’s 56 million men, women and children with disabilities in all aspects of life. Learn more about our recent progress toward this goal.


Let’s Make Compliance the Floor, Not the Ceiling

Op-ed by Randy Lewis, Former SVP at Walgreens’, accidental disability-advocate and featured speaker at NOD’s CEO Council form “Moving Beyond Compliance”

Image of Randy LewisWay up on the 57th floor of Chase Tower, a group of people came together in Chicago last week who are literally changing the lives of so many Americans living with disabilities. This is an historic moment when our nation can at long last begin to harvest the talents of Americans with disabilities and, in the process, help them enjoy full opportunity for employment and earnings. For those in the workforce, the unemployment rate of people with disabilities in the U.S. is nearly twice the national unemployment rate. It’s a pervasive problem that still exists nearly a quarter century after the Americans with Disabilities Act became law. But you can feel the tide starting to turn.

The National Organization on Disability (NOD), which has been doing great work to help companies close that employment gap, hosted a forum in partnership with Exelon, one of Chicago’s leading employers engaged with this issue. There is now building in corporate America today a new energy and commitment toward workplaces that include people with disabilities with all other diversity segments. Workplaces where people with disabilities are considered for what they can do, not what they can’t. Where employees with disabilities are performing equal tasks and earning equal pay. I had the privilege of leading such a process at Walgreens and shared my experiences with the group assembled this week atop Chase Tower. More on my Walgreens experience in a moment.

One reason this is such a remarkable time is the recent shift in public policy out of Washington. This year, the U.S. Labor Department adopted a rule change that, for the first time, sets a seven-percent hiring goal for people with disabilities if you are a contractor that does business with the federal government. Many companies are working to comply right now, and I know some here in the Midwest have raised concerns. That’s why I’m delighted Patricia Shiu, the point person at DOL who spearheaded the rule change, was able to travel from D.C. to Chicago for this forum. Her office has worked hard to listen to employers to make the transition smoother. My message to corporate America is a simple one: Don’t do it because you have to, do it because it will make your company better.

US Department of Labor News Brief: Workforce Inclusion Forum

Image of US Dept of Labor logo

More than 120 business leaders and community advocates attended a symposium on disability employment hosted by the National Organization on Disability and Exelon in Chicago on Sept. 10.

Retired Walgreens Executive Randy Lewis (left) and Carol Glazer, president for the National Organization on Disability (right) listen to OFCCP Director Patricia Shiu at a NOD sponsored symposium in Chicago on hiring and including employees with disabilities.
Retired Walgreens Executive Randy Lewis (left) and Carol Glazer, president for the National Organization on Disability (right) listen to OFCCP Director Patricia Shiu at a NOD sponsored symposium in Chicago on hiring and including employees with disabilities.

Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs Director Patricia A. Shiu discussed the agency’s rule establishing a 7 percent employment goal for people with disabilities by federal contractors and subcontractors. “The experience of companies has overwhelmingly been that these hires are a source of loyal, hard-working talent that boosts corporate productivity,” Shiu said. ​

Retired Walgreens executive Randy Lewis described efforts that led to 10 percent of the company’s workforce consisting of individuals with disabilities. “Don’t hire people with disabilities because you have to, do it because it will make your company better,” he said.

NOD Chairman Gov. Tom Ridge Delivers Keynote Remarks at Pennsylvania Disability Employment Summit

NOD Chairman and former state governor Tom Ridge delivered keynote remarks at the the third-annual Pennsylvania Disability Employment Summit (PADES). The summit brings together business leaders, advocates, providers and persons with disabilities to discuss the importance of helping individuals with disabilities gain employment and achieve independence.

Widely covered by press outlets throughout Pennsylvania, the three-day event featured a Secretaries’ Roundtable with cabinet officials discussing how agencies help provide services that assist individuals with disabilities, information on tax incentives and free training available to employers; updates on transportation for Pennsylvanians with disabilities; and a job fair where businesses can recruit and interview qualified candidates on the spot.

Revisiting the Pain of Mental Illness in America: What Can We Learn From Robin Williams’ Suicide?

Image of HuffingtonPost LogoHuffington Post Blog by NOD President Carol Glazer

As an actor, comic and humanitarian, Robin Williams touched millions of lives. His untimely death by suicide linked to serious depression has deprived all of us of years more of his extraordinary gifts. More importantly, his family lost a husband and father. The media has been abuzz about the profound pain wrought by depression on its victims and their families. But before we move on to the next important news story, let’s first tally up what Robin Williams’ death tells us about the stigmatization of mental illness and the cost of investing in its early detection and treatment vs. the cost of not doing so.

Throughout history, as a society we’ve treated mental illness in short bursts, separated by large periods of benign or active neglect. From the purges and bloodletting in the Middle Ages, to later “madhouses” that housed inhabitants in cages, to reforms creating more humane state hospitals in the late 1800s, public policy has come full circle. In the 1960s we learned that state institutions were no better than incarceration of previous centuries. That recognition led to deinstitutionalization in the mid-1960s, codified by President Kennedy’s funding for treatment facilities through the Community Mental Health Act of 1963. (President Kennedy’s sister Rosemary had famously undergone a lobotomy, which left her inert and unable to speak more than a few words).

But while the number of institutionalized mentally ill people in the United States dropped from a peak of 560,000 to just over 130,000 in 1980, only half of the proposed community mental health centers intended to support individuals who transitioned back to communities were ever built, and many of those that remained were dismantled in the 1970s and ‘80s due to lack of funding. Sadly, the promise of deinstitutionalization—helping vast numbers of people with mental health disabilities lead normal and productive lives through treatment in their communities—was never fulfilled.

Let’s Fill the Disability Gap

Image of Profiles in Diversity Journal logoBobby Sturgell, SVP Washington Operations, Rockwell Collins and NOD Director

Before you hire your next employee, I challenge you to consider someone with a disability. The benefits that a person with a disability brings can be significant. Research studies dating back to 1948 have consistently shown that employees with disabilities have average or better attendance, job performance, and safety records than their non-disabled counterparts, as well as a lower turnover rate.

Reportedly, there are 56 million people with disabilities living in the U.S., and approximately 33 million of them are of working age. The labor force participation rate of this group is 21 percent, which is much lower than the participation rate of those working without disabilities—approximately 70 percent.

We recognize the value that persons with disabilities bring, especially veterans that served our country. Being in the defense industry, the skills that disabled veterans bring are a natural fit. Their battle experience using our technology can produce strong customer affinity.​

More News


LIVE WEBCAST | Do Ask, Do Tell: Encouraging Disability Self-ID in an Inclusive Workplace
Monday, September 22, 2014

LIVE WEBCAST | Achieving Results with the Disability Employment Tracker
Wednesday, September 24, 2014

LIVE STREAM: Bridging the Employment Gap for Students with Disabilities
Wednesday, October 1, 2014

More Events

Press Releases

Employers Meet with DOL Leader to Discuss New Hiring Targets for People with Disabilities

“Moving Beyond Compliance” Symposium Hosted by Exelon and National Organization on Disability at Chase Tower

Sept. 10, 2014, Chicago, IL – U.S. businesses that contract with the federal government are preparing for a new seven-percent employment goal for people with disabilities. President Obama’s point person at the U.S. Labor Department tasked with spearheading that effort traveled to Chicago today to speak with area human resources and Diversity & Inclusion executives at a symposium hosted by energy company Exelon and the National Organization on Disability (NOD). Patricia Shiu, Director of the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, was joined on today’s panel by Randy Lewis, the former Senior Vice President at Walgreens, a large employer with headquarters in Chicago that successfully created thousands of jobs for people with disabilities.

New Opportunity for Employers to Assess Readiness to Hire People with Disabilities Now Available

Disability Employment Tracker™ 2014 Offers Exciting New Benchmarking Opportunities and will be a Significant Factor in Determining the DiversityInc ‘Top 10 Companies for Employees with Disabilities’ Annual Survey

Sept. 10, 2014, Chicago, IL - National Organization on Disability (NOD) today unveiled the next iteration of the popular Disability Employment Tracker™, a corporate self-assessment tool developed in partnership with the National Business and Disability Council (NBDC) at The Viscardi Center and Sirota. The Tracker allows companies to confidentially assess their own disability and/or veteran employment practices, benchmark their efforts against their peers, and use the results to educate internal stakeholders on successes and opportunities.

New this year is a partnership with DiversityInc, the nation’s leading “diversity” publication. Starting with the April 2015 awards, DiversityInc will consider whether a company has completed the Disability Employment Tracker™ as a significant factor when determining their Top 10 Companies for Employees with Disabilities.

NOD Chairman Updates US Labor Secretary on Efforts to Prepare Federal Contractors for Rule Change

If Embraced by Corporate America, DOL Rule Change Could Result in 600,000 Jobs for People with Disabilities

July 14, 2014 Washington, D.C. – At a briefing prepared for U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez, National Organization on Disability Chairman Tom Ridge and President Carol Glazer today shared what they have been hearing from corporate America as federal contractors prepare for a new seven-percent hiring goal for people with disabilities.

With the rule change going into effect this past March, many companies are working to comply right now. In an effort to assist employers who may find reaching these new goals challenging, NOD has expanded its role by adapting its services to help businesses to effectively recruit, hire, train and retain job-seekers with disabilities.

“In setting the new rules, your staff proved to be responsive and made many necessary adjustments based on feedback from the business community,” Gov. Ridge told Sec. Perez and Patricia Shiu, director of the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs. “We are pleased that you are seeking to keep the lines of communication open so that we can continue to share with you what we’re hearing from employers in an effort to help them achieve the seven-percent target and increase employment opportunity for the 29 million working-age Americans with disabilities.”

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