Founder’s Note: Edition 3

“Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance.(R)” ~Verna Myers

Happy summer, everyone, and welcome to our new readers,

This edition of The Thread is inspired by my amazing friend Sara Hart Weir, who opened my eyes to the challenges facing the disability community in the United States. Sara has spent over 20 years working in the community, serving as a caregiver to a young woman with Down syndrome and as the CEO of the National Down Syndrome Society. Sara now advises governments, nonprofits, and companies from Main Street to Wall Street on how to truly include people with disabilities in all aspects of their mission and work. Sara is an “Engage Woman” par excellence!

In support of the disability community, our two guest contributors have written pieces that I believe should be read by absolutely everyone. This edition’s Engage Woman, Kayla McKeon, is a true beauty who is breaking new ground as the first registered lobbyist with Down syndrome. An avid reader, she also has some wonderful book recommendations.

About 1 in 4 Americans live with a disability. That is 61 million people. Within this number are the 4.7 million veterans with a disability related to their service. If you include the caregivers and families, the total number of Americans connected to the disability community grows to well over 100 million. The community encompasses the entire disability spectrum, which ranges from physical to intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDDs). The pieces below illuminate the economic insecurity of our disability community and the unique challenges these individuals face with finding employment.

Sara’s piece highlights a virtually unknown, archaic piece of federal legislation from 1938 that allows employers to pay disabled workers well below the minimum wage standard – literally pennies! Our second guest contributor is Laurel Rossi, co-founder of Creative Spirit, which is the first nonprofit dedicated to creating integrated, fair-wage employment for those with disabilities. Laurel informs us about the ubiquitous term, “DNI” (formally, “DE&I,”), and its exclusion of our 61 million fellow Americans with disabilities. She writes about what the public and private sectors can do to address and remedy these inequities and how you can partner with Creative Spirit to hire individuals with IDDs at your company.

Central to the mission of Engage is advocating for bipartisan and commonsense solutions to the challenges women face in their daily lives. Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rogers of Washington State and Congressman Bobby Scott of Virginia are co-sponsoring a piece of legislation to fix the unfair and punitive law from 1938. This is exactly what we have a right to demand of our elected leaders: come together to solve a problem and make America fairer for its citizens.

When I speak with Members of Congress and senior staff, there is always a great deal of frustration that the good, bipartisan work is never highlighted – it’s only ever the political name-calling and posturing. They have a point, and so I ask you to forward this issue of The Thread to your friends and families.

The dysfunction in Washington and its contributing factors are a tight knot that will not be easily made smooth. However, Engage exists to draw attention to the critical issues that have commonsense solutions which we should all be able to support. Women, the political power is ours. After all, we outnumber, outvote, and outlive men. Let’s harness that power to help those in our disability community and all who love them.

I will be back in touch this summer with ways you can help Sara, Laurel, Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rogers, and Congressman Bobby Scott to pass this law in support of a fair wage for the disability community.

Also included in this edition of The Thread are our regular features: Lyrics with Laura and a book recommendation from Sophie Evans, Engage’s Policy Director, that goes right to the heart of the conversation about women, veterans, and taking care of each other. My gratitude to Sophie, as well, for doing such a beautiful job of editing this edition of The Thread.

“Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance.(R)” ~Verna Myers

America will only thrive in this 21st century if everyone is invited and if the music played makes it easier for all of us to dance.

Wishing you health and fun this summer,
Rachel

Rachel Pearson is the Founder of Engage. You can reach her at rachel@engagewomen.org.

 


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