The Harkin Summit: Innovating for Inclusion

Doubling Disability Employment In A Changing Landscape

Ford Foundation President Darren Walker sat down with Sen. Harkin (Ret.) on November 3, 2017. Walker openly discussed the way the Ford Foundation has started to more deliberately integrate individuals with disabilities as a priority within their conversations on diversity.

“What separates us from excellence is we have left out a large part of our society in terms of human capital, human potential and the impact that people can have if you include them,” said Walker.

Walker has pushed self-awareness within Ford Foundation and the nonprofit is doing an analysis of everything from hiring practices to the structure of the building to allow for a more accessible organization and workplace.

Walker made comparisons to other groups of people that are typically not included in conversations such as women and people of color. Walker finds it surprising that we have human rights groups that don’t put disability rights at the forefront. The human rights community has for a long time defined things in a way that often excludes people with disabilities. Walker urges organizations to consider that they should ‘reset’ how we think about human rights to incorporate individuals with disabilities, including a more “integrated, intersectional approach.” We need public research and public dialogue about disability from the perspectives of people with disabilities. Furthermore, journals when discussing diversity, should be sure to include

The Ford Foundation, when considering organizations for grants, completes an assessment of the diversity of that organization. While questions were included about race, gender, and other factors, there wasn’t a question about individuals with disabilities. As a tangible effort towards inclusion, the Ford Foundation has added a question related to individuals with disabilities on their assessment. Walker discussed that the Ford Foundation is trying to set an example that all people should begin to demand more inclusion.

Walker expressed that work is important for establishment of dignity. The United States prioritizes work as a way of evaluating self-worth. Applying this idea to individuals with disabilities can produce implemented changes, as Ford Foundation is trying to demonstrate.

The attendees were left with a call to action that it is now important to hold organizations accountable to better society.


Written by Madeline Miller