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Greater Omaha Chamber diversity and inclusion symposium

"Disability is not a bad word, people with disabilities have major contributions to our world of work."
Posted at 6:50 PM, Oct 20, 2023

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — The Greater Omaha Chamber hosted their fourth annual conference on opportunity, diversity and equity. During one breakout session, Darla Wilkerson the CEO of the Center for Disability Inclusion, focused in on reducing the stigma around mental illness in the workplace.

"A lot of times when people think of the word disability or hear the word disability, they think of something they can physically see right? Someone who may be in a wheelchair, someone who may be blind, maybe hearing, you know, impaired or deaf," said Wilkerson.

With 37 years of experience helping employers become more inclusive in the workplace, Wilkerson knows that not all disabilities are apparent.

"So it could be — brain injury. I have a brain injury, you wouldn't know that if I didn't share that with you," she said.

Census data shows that 74% of Americans have disabilities that can't be seen including mental illnesses, substance abuse, and even things like cancer.

Ishani Adidam attended Wilkerson's breakout session and shared one of her key takeaways.

"Instead of judging people, be curious. Like, do they have the support they need to get through the workday? What can we do as employees but also as friends to help our co-workers get through this time in their lives," said Adidam.

Wilkerson said there are a lot of misconceptions about those with disabilities. Going forward she had some recommendations.

"If we can treat people with dignity and respect, be open-minded, listen, have empathy, I think that really carries us a long way," said Wilkerson.

As October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, Wilkerson said it's important to not only recognize disability in the world of work but also in the overall community.

"Disability is not a bad word, people with disabilities have major contributions to our world of work," she said.

To find out more ways to help reduce the stigma around mental illness in the workplace visit https://www.centerfordisabilityinclusion.org.

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