REDMOND, Wash., February 7, 2000 — Only 29 percent of the 17 million working-age people with disabilities in the nation are employed, compared with 79 percent of the general population, according to a recent NOD/Harris study. Individuals with disabilities make up a labor pool that is woefully underrepresented and undervalued in many companies across the nation.
WE Magazine, a lifestyle publication for people with disabilities, highlighted Microsoft among 10 companies that go above and beyond what is required in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) when it comes to recruiting and accommodating employees with disabilities. A recipient of the magazine’s annual
award, Microsoft found itself at the top of WE Magazine’s list.
“This is one of the most important features that we run each year, because it deals with the most pressing issue facing people with disabilities,” said Charles A Riley II, Ph.D., editor-in-chief of WE Magazine. “It is no small honor for Microsoft to come out on top of this list.”
The Golden Ladder has been awarded annually since the magazine’s inception nearly four years ago. “Many large companies have taken initiative to employ people with disabilities, and Microsoft has been one of these companies,” said John Williams, who chose this year’s award recipients. “But Microsoft is an exemplary leader. Not only is it going out and hiring people with disabilities, but it’s also developing products for them.”
In choosing the finalists, Williams used the following criteria: recruiting, accommodation, opportunity for advancement, word of mouth, leadership within the company and marketing.
“Microsoft is really committed to improving the quality of life for people with disabilities,” Williams said. “Many companies develop products for individuals with disabilities, but then they don’t put a lot of effort or money into marketing the products, which tells me their commitment isn’t strong. Microsoft, on the other hand, puts its money where its mouth is.”
Microsoft works hard to include people with disabilities among its workforce, according to Santiago Rodriguez, Microsoft’s Director of Diversity. “People with disabilities are an integral part of the diversity program at Microsoft,” Rodriguez said. “We believe that people from the various disability-related communities provide us with valuable perspectives on how we develop products and services; how we market them; and how we deal with issues of customer satisfaction. In other words, we benefit greatly in terms of innovation by having these viewpoints present among our employee workforce.”
In addition, Microsoft’s Accessibility and Disabilities Group works closely with product developers and disability advocates to ensure people with disabilities can easily use its software. A number of Microsoft’s leading products — including Windows 98, Office 2000, Internet Explorer and Windows 2000 — contain features designed specifically for people with disabilities.
Microsoft also is working within the community to expand employment opportunities for people with disabilities. Last fall, for example, Microsoft and the National Business & Disability Council created the Able to Work Consortium, dedicated to increasing employment opportunities for people with disabilities. Its primary purpose is to develop tools and strategies that will help businesses tap into the pool of over 8.5 million job seekers with disabilities who want to work but remain unemployed.
The Consortium has developed an interactive Web site at http://www.abletowork.org/ , which matches employers and job seekers with online job and resume postings from Consortium members and other companies. The success of this program is highlighted best by noting that 7 of this year’s 10 Golden Ladder award recipients are members of Able to Work: Microsoft Corp., Johnson & Johnson, IBM, Caterpillar, Crestar Bank, Ford Motor Co., and Booz Allen & Hamilton. This representation of the Consortium as recipients of the magazine’s award underscores the commitment of the program. These companies hope to encourage other companies to see the benefits of hiring people with disabilities.
“All Able to Work consortium members have a phenomenal track record in recruiting, hiring and accommodating individuals with disabilities,” said Gary Moulton, product manager in Microsoft’s Accessibility and Disabilities Group. “There’s no doubt that their success stories and best practices will motivate other companies — large and small — to follow their lead. As a result of the efforts of these companies, and the others who join the crowd, the employment needle for individuals with disabilities is going to move in a positive direction.”
“Microsoft deserves credit for what it’s doing — showing leadership and visionary skills that no other company has,” Williams said. “That vision puts it in a league of its own.”
The Able to Work Consortium is supported by a number of top North American corporations that are showing a strong commitment towards increasing employment opportunities for people with disabilities, including: AT & T/AT & T Wireless, Booz Allen & Hamilton, Bristol-Meyers Sqibb, Caterpillar Inc., Crestar Bank, a subsidiary of SunTrust Banks Inc., Dell Computer Corp., Ford Motor Co., IBM Corp., Johnson & Johnson, Lucent Technologies Inc., Merrill Lynch & Co., Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, Microsoft, Mutual of America, NCR Corp., Procter & Gamble Co., Royal Bank of Canada, SAFECO Corp., UnumProvident Corporation, US West Communications, and Washington Mutual Inc.