Able and willing | September 25, 2015 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

Cover Story - September 25, 2015

Able and willing

Employees with disabilities are slowly gaining greater entry into Silicon Valley companies, but still have far to go

by Sue Dremann

Twenty-five years after the federal enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the law that was created to end discrimination against people with disabilities has failed to produce more employment, according to a U.S. Department of Labor Statistics report.

This story contains 2692 words.

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Staff Writer Sue Dremann can be emailed at


Posted by Hope
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 25, 2015 at 9:54 am

The challenges of different disabilities are very different from case to case. In addition to employment, there is also the hostile housing climate that destroys any universal design and inclusionary housing principles for the disabled in favor of development interests to densify.

People with "invisible" disabilities are even more hard pressed to find work because of healthcare costs coming back to employers, as well as a general misunderstanding about health-related disability. There are almost no resources to help, and government resources are Potemkin villages. New technology should be helping but biases and negative stereotyping are a huge hurdle, in addition to the utter lack if support and resources. I remember a supervisor walking by with a resume of a really strong candidate. He then teased out a gap, was silent for a moment ans said, "I'll bet this was a disability leave" and the resume went right in the circular file.

Abilities United is amazing but don't address that segment. Rehabilitation resources are not available to people who are not fully well, even though technology today could make up for a lot.

Anyway, great story. There is a lot of work to do to solve this problem of employment for people with disabilities. Glad to see some local companies making sone first efforts.

Posted by Marcie
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 25, 2015 at 4:01 pm

Our son is disabled so we are very aware of the lack of job opportunities. Our big disappointment has been with the City of Palo Alto. Our son has always been reliable and a perfectionist about things being put in order. When he was younger he applied to the city libraries as a volunteer shelf-er. He did this more than once and never received a reply. I believe he was not considered due to his childish handwriting. Later with the help of a job coach he applied for a paid opening at the libraries and again never heard back. I honestly believe that the city wouldn't even consider a disabled person for a job. No, Ada Cafe doesn't count because it was designed for the disabled.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Green Acres
on Sep 25, 2015 at 8:38 pm

Wonderful story paloaltoonline! Great work abilities United! I will always choose Hilton. Thank you SAP and Tesla and others.

Posted by Hope
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 27, 2015 at 8:22 am

Thank you to Sue Dremann for such a solid article, for not making it "inspiration porn" (very good TED talk about that) but informative about the problem and who is acting

This says so much:
""It's not the same way as race and gender and age are within diversity conversations. ... Disability needs to be seen as important as these other dimensions of diversity, but it is often missing in the vision of diversity," "

I hope there will be more. Perhaps about "invisible"/health disabilities and the challenges of getting help and "passing", and how technology can help or hinder. Or about universal design in our city scape and building (currently almost nonexistent - the disabled are treated like an afterthought). Or an update on what our schools are doing to accommodate kids with health disabilities since that article about how poorly they dealt with the young man who had Crohn's or ulceritive colitis.

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