When I was paralyzed 12 years ago and embarked on a return to work at the Coca-Cola Company following rehabilitation, I was certainly operating on new terrain. I had to help form an employee resource group (ERG) from scratch. I was extremely fortunate that my manager was sympathetic to my situation and had an unshaken belief in my ability to return to full productivity—but he was also working within unfamiliar territory.

Now, new employees with disabilities at many major corporations have established business resource groups (BRGs) and ERGs they can rely on for support. More and more companies have formalized protocols to request accommodations and are taking the need for fully accessible work environments more seriously. The recent renaissance of diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives has led to an explosion of hiring of DEI professionals, who can help shepherd companies toward better disability hiring practices and foster a culture of disability awareness.

However, this is only the beginning. People with disabilities aren’t just a mass of equals on a level playing field. We are also leaders, intellectuals, trailblazers, inventors and virtuosos. It’s in everyone’s interest to build a corporate culture where people with disabilities can excel. Now, the corporate world and the disability community have to take it to the next level—together—and ensure that people with disabilities can have their seat at the table as valued employees and leaders in the business community.emp

The nonprofit I currently lead, United Spinal Association, has nurtured its Pathways to Employment (PTE) program for many years—and through PTE, has nurtured our community’s potential to make a collective breakthrough. We mentor members returning to work after spinal cord injury and work closely with corporations on recruiting, accommodating, integrating and lifting up their employees with disabilities. We are always looking for that win-win where people with disabilities can express their talents and to stoke corporate growth and innovation.

  • Start with education and awareness.
  • Focus on inclusive marketing, communications and hiring practices.
  • Consider everyone in your initiatives.

Read the full article about disability employment by Vincenzo Piscopo at Forbes.