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The U.S. sets a powerful example for the world by the way we promote and protect the rights of our citizens with disabilities to contribute to our economy. Unfortunately, many nations still lag behind in their treatment of people with disabilities. That’s why the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is highlighting how American businesses—as they always do—are taking the lead in finding solutions to this problem, even without any legal obligation to do so.
Last week the Chamber hosted the Global Disability Employment Summit, where we featured many inspiring companies that are voluntarily opening up opportunities for workers with disabilities around the globe. While navigating a patchwork of laws and regulations abroad, these companies are taking practical steps to include people with disabilities in their workplaces and as important segments of their customer bases. They are diversifying their supply chains and working with disability-owned businesses.
These businesses represent some of the world’s most valuable brands, and they are leading the way not just because it is a good thing to do but because it is the smart thing to do. It increases their competitive edge and strengthens their bottom lines. We were proud to have these companies at the Chamber last week to share their advice, experiences, and best practices. They told an audience of public- and private-sector leaders what works and what doesn’t, and how it is possible to create truly inclusive workplaces and help people with disabilities thrive.
Many American businesses remain hopeful for a global solution to this challenge. In 2012, the Chamber was a proud proponent of the United Nations Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities, a treaty that would have helped bring other countries up to speed in their treatment of citizens with disabilities. When the treaty came before the U.S. Senate, however, it failed to achieve the two-thirds majority necessary for ratification.
Since then, we’ve seen that American companies don’t wait for a mandate or a rule to do the right thing. They are proud to hire and retain workers with disabilities and make their services and premises more accessible to all. Globally, there are many people with disabilities who still need to be given a fair chance. They offer tremendous untapped talent and potential. The Chamber will continue spreading the message that as long as these individuals are kept on the sidelines of the workforce, economies and companies worldwide will miss out.