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Last week I had the honor of being invited to the White House to participate in the Summit on Disability and Employment.  The Summit brought together a mix of public sector, private sector and non-profit participants to share information and brainstorm on ways to make an impact on the high unemployment rate of individuals with disabilities.   It was a great chance to share best practices, less than best practices – what didn’t work – and observations in between.

The Summit included a keynote address from Tom Perez, Secretary of Labor, covering the current status and challenges of disability employment.   If you have never had a chance to see Secretary Perez speak you are missing out – he is a great and engaging speaker.   A few choice quotes from that:

  • “The great uncompleted labor of the ADA is employment.” In a discussion with Tony Coelho about what is left to be done with the ADA.
  • “This [employing people with disabilities] is not an act of charity – it is an act of enlightened self-interest.”  About having a diverse workforce and its positive impacts on the bottom line.
  • “We should use the power of Federal regulations not as a hammer but as an opportunity to enhance employment.”  On the appropriate use of Federal regulations.
  • “Our goal should be to help people realize their highest and best dreams.” On the role of the DoL in the market.
  • “America works best when we field a full team.” and “There is no such thing as a spare American.” On labor participation and national competitive advantage.

And the award for the best analogy of the day, also on the DoL, “We are like match.com – we match employers with job seekers that want to grow.”

Thanks to the White House for hosting the event and to all the speakers, organizers and attendees who made it great.  You can get more information on it in Cecilia Muñoz’s post Advancing Employment Opportunities for People with Disabilities on whitehouse.gov.