It's time to take a fresh look at disability in the workplace.

Your organization needs the best workers to achieve your goals or mission.

Workers with disabilities are able to pitch in on a scale never before possible.

But your workplace culture needs a fresh look at workers with disabilities. The old models are very deeply set, so it takes an excellent communicator who puts the story in business terms to bring your culture up to speed.

It's not about "Hire the Handicapped" anymore.

Hiring and keeping employees with disabilities is not a gesture of charity, not a sacrifice. These are real people with talents, interests, and personal goals who want to succeed in the workplace.

They don't need any favors. You don't need to lower the bar. You aren't being asked to hire anyone who can't do the job.

You don't want to miss the best candidate for a job just because they happen to have a disability.

And you don't want to lose an existing employee who acquires a disability who is capable of staying on the job.

Gary Karp helps your organization embrace the value of this considerable, growing, and substantially untapped labor pool by infusing your workplace culture with the understanding that disability, first and foremost, is just one part of the greater whole that makes up any one human being.

Bring your workplace culture up to speed with the
current picture of Modern Disability.

Speaking Points for Business Talks

"People with disabilities." That's a very broad swath of the human family with an extremely broad range of effects on what someone is capable of. Before we can understand how to tap into the portion that can contribute fully in the workplace, we need to understand exactly who we're talking about. 

We are living in a radically transformed world when it comes to what it really means to have a disability. For one thing, it's often the environment that disables, not the characteristic of the person. Wheelchair users are no longer disabled in office buildings because they can get in the door and use a restroom. There is a substantial list of observable changes that have unleashed immense potential in people able to perform at a high level in jobs for which they are qualified.

Our culture — our very minds — are deeply infused with ways of thinking about disability that just don't fit the changed reality of it. In the past, disability was indeed a very different experience, if only because the world was much less disability-friendly than it is now. But simply because deepset beliefs don't change easily, the old models of disability hang on tight — all the more reason to take a clear, fresh look at the Modern Disability experience.

Because what it means to have a disability has changed so substantially, it is time for us to embrace a new paradigm that fits the current, actual picture. The new paradigm of Modern Disability is based on adaptability, independence, and possibility. The new paradigm is also more universal, focusing on the core humanity that defines each and every one of us. Our hearts and minds and values and goals are what matter, not the particular package we might be living in.

Employers and managers have valid questions to ask about hiring and keeping workers with disabilities. There are real goals, mission targets, minimum standards, and maximum vision that drives the work of a team or department or organization. It is totally reasonable to ask questions regarding the skills and productivity of a worker with a disability. Yet exactly because the Old Models still hold sway over our expectations, it is critical for employers to take that fresh look to find out whether these concerns fit the current reality. What is most important is that an employer does not miss or lose an employee (who might happen to have a disability) who would best contribute to success.

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 requires employers to make "reasonable accommodations" which would allow a qualified worker with a disability to perform the essential tasks of a job. In a survey of 510 employers by the Job Accommodation Network (a program of the U.S. Department of Labor) 56% of them reported making accommodations that cost nothing at all. Less than 1% cost over a thousand dollars. The data is clear — reasonable accommodations actually are reasonable!

Many people become very uncomfortable when they encounter a person with a disability. Often, they are wondering, "What do I say? What do I do?" Well, to get the job done, everyone needs to just relax, which is why disability etiquette training is a high priority in the modern workplace. The fact is, it's not a big deal. There is no long list of rules to memorize, no horrible danger of causing a major upset. Disability etiquette is primarily a matter of focusing on the person, not on the disability. It's about preserving independence, choice, and control. And it's about recognizing that people gain mastery of how they live with disability. In other words, if they need some help, they'll let you know — and they'll let you know how. you can relax!

Gary Karp has been conducting a series of very personal and compelling interviews with a broad range of people with disabilities. In his talks and training programs, the eloquent voices of real people with real passion living real lives and pursuing real goals appear throughout. After all, this is about people — who happen to have disabilities. You'll hear their voices, and you'll get how real these people are — with the same hearts and minds and desires as everyone else.

A good deal of the language used in our culture — particularly in the media — plays into negative belief systems about disability. Someone is said to "suffer" from cerebral palsy, but those living full lives with CP will tell you that they are not in a continual state of suffering as they live their full lives! A wheelchair user is not "confined" or "bound" to it, but rather use a precious tool that provides them with mobility — and therefore an active life. The general rule is "people first" language — "people with disabilities," "a person with upper limb loss," and so on. And by the way, look out for that PC stuff — "specially able" is percieved as patronizing language, and besides, you just don't need to try that hard.


To book Gary, contact him by email, or call him at 415.491.4280.

D. Michael Collins

Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation

"Your straightforward and eloquent presentation was very inspiring for everyone. You challenged them to think in new ways."

John Kemp

U.S. Business Leadership Network

"Your skillful blending of the social, historical, political, ethical, and business pieces of the 'Modern Disability' story was simply brilliant."