Posted On: February 28, 2020
Starkloff Disability Institute presented two sessions at this year’s Webster University Diversity and Inclusion Conference on February 25 and 26.
Katie Fields, our College Outreach Coordinator, spoke on a panel about preparing college students for workplace diversity on Tuesday, February 25. She was the most recent Webster graduate on the four-person panel moderated by Trezette Dixon.
“Even though the panel was representative of different industries and experiences, each person was able to tie their experiences to another panelist,” Blair Dammerman, Starkloff’s Youth Programs Manager explained.
Katie used her experience working with college-aged students with disabilities to advocate for meaningful workplace inclusion in a room where many don’t consider disability.
“Most job descriptions inadvertently discourage applicants with disabilities from applying,” Katie told the audience. “If there isn’t a manual component to the job, but you require someone who can lift 25 pounds, you’re excluding many qualified applicants with disabilities. I tell my students to gather their confidence and apply anyway.”
On Wednesday, February 26, SDI Founder Colleen Starkloff presented The Intersectionality of Disability: Attitudes, Accommodations and Integration to a captive audience of more than 300 people. Colleen emphasized the reason why she insists that people outside the disability community should advocate for societal changes in their attitudes.
“At any point in time, anyone could become part of the disability community,” Colleen explained. “We are the largest marginalized group and still live in poverty today, even when we work.”
The room erupted in applause after seeing the iconic Capitol Hill Crawl and hearing how federal changes were implemented quickly afterward. During the question-and-answer portion following her presentation, audience members were moved to share their disability experiences with the room.
Beth, an interior designer, recalled when her mother acquired a spinal cord injury in 1964. As she finished her Master’s degree thesis, she also studied Universal Design in order to build her parents an accessible home.
“I’m so grateful to you for speaking about these issues today,” Beth said to Colleen. “You are opening our eyes to a world most of us don’t think about until after we are immersed in it.”
Webster’s conference attendees will surely not forget the impactful words and information shared by Katie and Colleen. Together, we are advancing our vision to create a world that is welcoming to people with disabilities.
You can catch the recap of both presentations here: webster.edu/live