2012 ADA Awards and Recognition Ceremony for the City of Phoenix

Today, we celebrated the 2012 ADA Awards and Recognition Ceremony for the City of Phoenix. We had a great turnout and participation. Mayor Greg Stanton and City Manager, David Cavazos gave remarks and I was proud to offer our keynote speech today.

Perhaps my favorite part of the day was meeting our MCDI grant recipients and learning how the grants have impacted their lives. It was great to also meet many of our ACE volunteers who patrol the City’s parking lots to ensure that accessible parking spots are available for those who need them.

Since I’ve been asked by those unable to attend, following is the text of my keynote today.

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I want to first acknowledge and thank so many of the people who have made today possible…

Outback Steakhouse who generously donated today’s refreshments and Event Coordinator Robert Turtula

The EOD staff who worked on this event tireless and graciously:

Marquita Beene
Reyna Rodriguez
Jennifer Battaglia
Maria Fruciano

The MCDI Commissions who served on the event planning committee:

Larry Clausen

Rafael Figueroa

Kai Willow Kaemmerer

Erica McFadden

Jean Moriki

Jason Stokes

Of course Mayor Greg Stanton, City Manager, David Cavazos, EOD Director Lionel Lyons, and the entire City staff who make this event and day-to-day life in the city of Phoenix possible. And, my dear friend and our emcee for today, KPHO Channel 5’s three-time Emmy-award winning weekday anchor, Catherine Anaya.

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month and this year’s theme; “A Strong Workforce is an Inclusive Workforce:  What Can You Do?”  promotes the benefits of a diverse workforce that includes workers with disabilities, who represent a highly skilled talent pool. More than 30% of the residents of our city have a disability. I am proud of the commitments that our city leaders have made to universal access and inclusion.

However, nationally; more than 59% of people with disabilities who are able to work cannot find jobs. Those who are employed are more likely to be under-employed than their able-bodied peers. Perhaps this explains why people with disabilities are significantly more likely to start their own successful businesses and create jobs for others.

Here’s the good news: Year-by-year, month-by-month, person-by-person, through awareness campaigns like this event, removal of barriers both physical and social, and inclusion commitments that’s all changing.

While introducing this year’s initiative, Senator Tom Harkin said: “It is time to take the next step, to open wide the doors to the workplace for our citizens with disabilities. In doing so, we will increase our workforce diversity; tap into a valuable, talented, under-utilized population, and marshal all of our available resources to maintain America’s leadership in the global economy.”

The City of Phoenix has already embraced this philosophy. As a disability advocate and Chair of MCDI, I make it a point to look for examples of inclusion in my everyday life. I am proud of my city when I see a workstation configured for an employee who uses a wheelchair, communication technology for an employee to assist with verbal communication, ASL interpreters at City events, captioning on videos and live streaming of city meetings and events to ensure the greatest possible access just to name a few.

And in the private sector, companies like Outback, Safeway, Walgreens, Lowe’s and Best Buy have shown that it’s possible to employ people with disabilities in a manner that spurs innovation, improves morale, increases productivity, lowers turnover, and improves the company’s bottom line.

The City of Phoenix is a rich tapestry of diversity. Due to the relative youth of our urban development, we are also very much a post-ADA city with a growing post-ADA workforce. By continuing to lead through example, Phoenix encourages other municipalities as well as private sector business to tap into this fertile pool of under-utilized talent.

So, back to today’s theme, what can you do? Examine the practices and assumptions of your organization for outdated and inaccurate portrayals of individuals with disabilities.  Stay vigilant to physical barriers and practices that prohibit full inclusion. And most important of all, see us for who we truly are: PEOPLE with disabilities.

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