Kessler Foundation Press Releases

2019 UN International Day of Persons with Disabilities: “This is My Workplace”

Photo collage of activities for IDPD at the United Nations

Photo collage of activities for IDPD event at the United Nations


East Hanover, NJ, December 3, 2019. At the United Nations,Rodger DeRose, president and CEO of Kessler Foundation, moderated the panel called “The Future of Inclusive Employment,” and Elaine E. Katz, MS, CCC-SLP, the Foundation’s senior vice president of the Center for Grants and Communications, participated in a panel titled, “Developing Inclusive Workplaces,” as part of a conversation about disability inclusion across sectors.

The event marked the observance of the UN’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities. The UN Department of Management Strategy, Policy and Compliance hosted the three-hour discussion focused on this year’s theme, “This is My Workplace -- Celebrating the Abilities of Professionals Around the World Empowered Through Employment.” It brought together experts and champions of disability inclusion to share best practices and highlight the empowerment of persons with disabilities that comes with ownership of the workplace.

“We need what former IBM accessibility officer Frances West calls authentic inclusion,” said DeRose. “For an organization to be successful in their inclusion and diversity efforts, it needs to look at an individual's ability across the whole organization, to take a holistic approach to see what individuals can add to the organization.”

“It's diversity that sparks innovation in a company,” said Katz. “Differences in thinking move an organization forward, so businesses are realizing that inclusion of people with disabilities isn’t charity. By bringing everybody's experiences and perspectives together you align your principles, your purpose, and your profit, and position your organization to influence change and growth.”

The event reflects the goals of the UN Disability Inclusion Strategy, launched by the Secretary-General in June 2019, to create and promote a truly inclusive culture in the United Nations where everyone can thrive and realize their full potential.

The featured speakers included adventure/entrepreneur Kyle Maynard and U.S. Paralympian gold medalist Mallory Weggemann. Maynard, whose talk was titled “Find Your Mountain,” is the first quadruple amputee to ascend Mount Kilimanjaro without the aid of prosthetics. Weggeman has 34 American and 15 world swimming records. She spoke about redefining limitations.

“The Future of Inclusive Employment” panel moderated by DeRose included Michael Fembek, Zero Project; Christine Ha, The Blind Goat; Sara Minkara, Empowerment Through Integration; and Chul-Joo Park, Permanent Mission of the Republic of Korea to the United Nations.

Moderating the “Developing Inclusive Workplaces” discussion was Jim Sinocchi, head of the Office of Disability Inclusion at JP Morgan Chase & Co. On the panel with Katz were Monique Lanaux, PepsiCo; Andrew Nye, UN Department of Operational Support; Julie Sowash, Disability Solutions; and Emily Ladau, Word I Wheel By.

An exhibition of vendors included Waymap, giving audio wayfinding instructions to help blind and low-vision users navigate public spaces; User1st, helping companies analyze, implement, and manage web accessibility functionality to ensure ongoing ADA website compliance; and Tableau, a data visualization/analytics platform.

About International Day of Persons with Disabilities
The annual observance of the International Day of Disabled Persons (December 3) was proclaimed in 1992, by the United Nations General Assembly resolution 47/3. The observance of the Day aims to promote an understanding of disability issues and mobilize support for the dignity, rights and well-being of persons with disabilities. It also seeks to increase awareness of gains to be derived from the integration of persons with disabilities in every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural life.

About Kessler Foundation
Kessler Foundation, a major nonprofit organization in the field of disability, is a global leader in rehabilitation research that seeks to improve cognition, mobility and long-term outcomes, including employment, for people with neurological disabilities caused by diseases and injuries of the brain and spinal cord. Kessler Foundation leads the nation in funding innovative programs that expand opportunities for employment for people with disabilities. Visit

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