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October 26, 2016
In its third installment of the Diversity Speaker Series, Covington welcomed Professor Michael Ashley Stein of the Harvard Law School Project on Disability (HPOD), which works to promote the human rights of peoples with disabilities worldwide, while also undertaking and encouraging teaching and ground-breaking scholarship on disability rights.
Professor Stein, who serves as the Executive Director of HPOD and as a visiting professor at Harvard Law School, is an internationally acclaimed expert on disability law and policy. Among his activities in the field of disability law, he participated in the drafting of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
During his presentation to more than 30 partners and associates at the firm’s Washington office, Professor Stein focused on the treatment of disability as a diversity category and on the role of law for persons with disabilities, who make up 15 percent of the global population.
“Disability is classically not part of the diversity agenda,” said Professor Stein. Furthermore, although many employers, including law schools, include non-discrimination clauses on their job applications and encourage people of underrepresented groups to apply, 79 percent of disabled people who are of working age are unemployed. There are also 1.2 million disabled persons with college degrees who are unemployed.
To combat this widespread problem, Professor Stein highlighted policies like those established by the U.S. Department of Labor, which set a goal for government contractors that 7 percent of their hires be people with disabilities.
Steps like those are a move in the right direction. With organizations like HPOD, we can continue to make advancements to promote diverse groups and raise awareness about the strength and perspectives they bring to the work force.