Accessibility in the Workplace: Forum to explore ‘going beyond compliance’

Over the past two years that we have been reporting on disability inclusion in West Michigan, we have covered many issues, including challenges in the workplace faced by those with disabilities.

Our work has received a great response, and I was honored earlier this year as the Media Person of the Year by the West Michigan Public Relations Society of America (WMPRSA).

So I’m thrilled to be invited by WMPRSA to be part of an important event the organization is hosting: Accessibility in the Workplace: Going Beyond Compliance, on Thursday, Oct. 26. The event, in partnership with Special Olympics Michigan and Disability Advocates of Kent County (DAKC), will be held at the Special Olympics Michigan Unified Sports Inclusion Center, 160 68th St. SW, Grand Rapids, at 6 p.m. 

I hope you will join me and other accessibility advocates to learn how we can improve the experience in the workplace for those with a range of disabilities. I will be on a panel with these speakers who are passionate about accessibility:The event also includes an optional tour of the Special Olympics center, the world’s largest Special Olympics training and sports center, at 5 p.m., and presentations, panel discussions, and a Q&A session at 6 p.m.

Creating equitable environments

The goal of the event is to provide an opportunity for communicators and employers to learn how they can contribute toward building equitable environments, says Kristen Krueger-Corrado, WMPRSA president and director of communications at Grand Valley State University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. 

“With our panelists and community partners, we will explore best practices for accessibility in the workplace,” Krueger-Corrado says.

For this event, WMPRSA found crucial resources in partnering with DAKC, a non-profit organization that promotes accessible and inclusive communities for individuals with disabilities through education, advocacy and collaborative partnerships.

An inclusive workplace begins with recognizing the diverse strengths and perspectives that each individual brings, believes Peggy Helsel, DAKC’s development director.

“When we prioritize accessibility, we not only break down physical barriers but also foster a culture of belonging. We hope this event provides an opportunity for everyone to come together, learn, and champion a future where every person can contribute their best,” Helsel says. 

The newly opened Special Olympics Michigan Unified Sports Inclusion Center, where DAKC’s office is now located, is a hub for organizations that support individuals with disabilities, promoting collaboration and inclusion.

Special Olympics Michigan is a non-profit organization that empowers individuals with intellectual disabilities to become physically fit, productive, and respected members of society through sports training and competition.

Nurturing ‘untapped talent’

"We believe that by partnering with WMPRSA and Disability Advocates of Kent County, we can collectively have a candid and informative discussion on the implications of disabilities in the workplace,” says Jen VanSkiver, director of development at Special Olympics Michigan. 

"Our workplaces hold immense potential for innovation and productivity when we fully embrace the abilities and contributions of every individual, including those with disabilities. In today’s work environment, we need to recognize that people living with disabilities represent a source of untapped talent that can benefit our organizations and society as a whole."  

Our Disability Inclusion series is one of several sponsors for this event because we believe this is an important conversation to move accessibility forward in West Michigan. Please join us to share your experiences and to ask questions of our panel of experts.

Tickets to Accessibility in the Workplace: Going Beyond Compliance can be purchased at Proceeds will benefit the WMPRSA Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Fund Grant, supporting the next generation of diverse communications professionals within West Michigan. 

This article is a part of the multi-year series Disability Inclusion, exploring the state of West Michigan’s growing disability community. The series is made possible through a partnership with Centers for Independent Living organizations across West Michigan.
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