Diversity of abilities is thought of last

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Although we North Americans are getting better at emphasizing diversity in the workplace, people with disabilities tend to be the last ones that diversity practitioners seek to recruit for jobs. I ran across these reflections by Rob McInness on diversity world today on why that might be so. He writes, “Having grappled with this question for years, my best guess is that, collectively and as individuals, many diversity practitioners secretly harbor the same discomfort with disability as any other non-disabled person in our culture. Many diversity practitioners, often because of their personal backgrounds, are deeply committed to the work that they do. I suspect that it must be very difficult for them to come to terms with their own inability to understand and embrace another group of people who are the target of similar workplace discrimination. It must be discomforting for them to know that they are not the true allies of people with disabilities that they should be. How brave someone would have to be to stand up and say “I have been a champion of workforce diversity for years and yet I am still awkward about disability issues, uncomfortable interacting with people with disabilities, and unfamiliar with the discrimination issues they face. Can someone help me to overcome that and become a true ally?” Of course, it is much easier to just carry on with the pretence of being an ally. I think it is that collective pretence that makes the world of workforce diversity so ineffective in responding to the issues of people with disabilities - let alone in embracing and advancing their cause. Too often, people with disabilities and their allies who attend diversity events and forums, still have the unsettled experience of being present (perhaps even invited), but not welcome.”

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