In this episode of Work in Progress, my guest Josh Christianson and I discuss continuing efforts to increase inclusion and accessibility in the workforce for people with disabilities, both physical and cognitive.
Christianson is the inclusion and accessibility lead at Wheelhouse Group and also serves as the project director for the Partnership on Inclusive Apprenticeship (PIA). In both roles, he works to increase the employment of underserved communities, including people with disabilities.
Additionally, we are proud to announce, Christianson recently joined the WorkingNation Advisory Board.
More than 61 million adults in the U.S. – around one-in-four – identify as having a disability, whether it is around vision, hearing, or motor disabilities related to limbs, or cognitive disabilities such as autism, ADHD, or related to mental health. Some genetic diseases are also considered a disability.
Christianson adds, “It’s also important to consider that it can come at different times in your life. It’s one of the largest – quote unquote – ‘minority groups in the world,’ but it may not be one you’re born into. It may have developed later in life. You may have an accident. With aging, many of us naturally acquire disabilities.”
Despite being about a quarter of the U.S. population, the labor force participation rate for people with disabilities sits at 32.8%, compared to 77.1% for those without disabilities.
Both through his work at Wheelhouse Group and PIA, Christianson works with companies to promote workplace diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA). “Lots of companies are paying more and more attention to it. It’s both the right thing to do, and it can help you be a differentiator.”
Christianson says he believes that when you look at the at the workplace through the lens of disability it enables you to do a better job of inclusion of all the traditionally marginalized and excluded groups.
“When you think about inclusion of DEIA broadly, intersectionality is a real thing. If anyone is trying to recruit and retain veterans, women, Black Americans, people who are formally incarcerated, all of those, you’re going to be better able to do if you come from an inclusion and accessibility perspective because that perspective is one of universal design. You’re trying to do the broadest possible range to allow people to engage with success.”
Christianson expresses hope that we are moving toward a business culture in which diversity and inclusion become second nature, not an afterthought. “The way we can move in the world – whether it’s technology or kind of a broader company culture – is to think about a universal human-centered design, a people approach to work and workplaces. Then we will just be better at recruiting, retaining, supporting, engaging our workforce, and it won’t need to be separated and segregated…It’ll just be designed into things.”
This is a very rich and engaging conversation in which we cover so much more. I encourage you to listen to the full conversation with Josh Christianson here, or download the Work in Progress episode wherever you get your podcasts.
Follow our coverage from Disability:IN
All this week, WorkingNation is reporting from the Disability:IN conference in Dallas. The nonprofit’s mission is to ensure that people with disabilities are actively included in the workforce, fully and in a meaningful way.
We’ll be talking to employers, workers, and job seekers about the challenges people with disabilities face in entering the labor market and efforts to make it more inclusive.
We’re sharing their observations in our WorkingNation Overheard interview series on social media this week. Look for them on our Twitter and LinkedIn accounts, or search those platforms for the hashtags #WorkingNationOverheard and #DisabilityInclusion.
Episode 237: Josh Christianson, Wheelhouse Group and Partnership on Inclusive Apprenticeship
Host & Executive Producer: Ramona Schindelheim, Editor-in-Chief, WorkingNation
Producer: Larry Buhl
Executive Producers: Joan Lynch and Melissa Panzer
Theme Music: Composed by Lee Rosevere and licensed under CC by 4.0
Download the transcript for this podcast here.
You can check out all the other podcasts at this link: Work in Progress podcasts