People tend to underestimate the number of disabled lawyers in the workplace, but because many attorneys feel they need to project strength and not weakness, most of them hide their disability, according to several experts.
So one of the most significant ways to enhance inclusion of disabled lawyers would be for companies and law firms to encourage self-identification programs, according to attorneys with disabilities. …
The good news is that the 2023 Disability Equality Index, a benchmarking tool for Fortune 1000 companies to measure disability workplace inclusion, reveals a marked increase in voluntary self-identification campaigns among corporations. The index results were released Monday to kick off a weeklong conference in Orlando, Florida. …
Of the law firms, seven had scores of 80 out of 100 and were recognized as best places to work for disability inclusion: Ballard Spahr LLP, Davis Wright Tremaine LLP, Epstein Becker Green, K&L Gates LLP, Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP, Reed Smith LLP and Steptoe & Johnson LLP.
Health care rights attorney Ted Kennedy Jr., a pediatric bone cancer survivor and amputee, co-chairs Disability:IN's annual index and is a board member and past chair of AAPD. He is an attorney at Epstein Becker Green's office in Stamford, Connecticut, and also a member of Law360's 2023 Diversity and Inclusion Editorial Advisory Board.
"Even though the Americans with Disabilities Act is now over 30 years old," Kennedy told Law360 Pulse, "we really have not seen very much progress in labor force participation among people with disabilities. And people with disabilities who are able and willing to work still face enormous barriers to employment."
Kennedy said disability inclusion is not just the right thing to do, but is also good business. He cited a 2018 report by Accenture showing that companies that performed better in the Disability Equality Index also were more profitable than those that did not.
"My ultimate goal here is to try to make disability inclusion one of the next themes of corporate social responsibility, and ESG investing as well," he added.
When there's a conversation happening about inclusion and diversity at the corporate level, Kennedy said, "we want to make sure … that it also includes disability inclusion."
He said his group's newest initiative is asking companies to update their nominating and governance committee charters to specifically include disability as part of their definition of diversity for new board members.