Impairment Elsewhere: The Paradox of Corporate Disability Diversity & Inclusion

Authors: Catherine Jampel*, Clark University
Topics: Economic Geography, Disabilities
Keywords: labor, disability, institutional ethnography
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/7/2021
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:20 PM
Room: Virtual 30
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Corporate interest in disability “Diversity & Inclusion (D&I)” has been growing steadily; the number of companies participating in an annual “Disability Equality Index” (DEI) grew from 43 in 2015 to 156 in 2019. Yet many of these companies that lead the way in terms of achieving disability D&I within their own organizations and in the business community contribute to the production of impairment and disablement elsewhere. Based on participant observation, ethnographic interviews, and publicly-available documents, this paper argues that often the organizations that both have the most at stake in terms of disability employment vis a vis their legal requirements as federal contractors and also the greatest resources to devote to disability inclusion are, for the same reasons, also implicated in producing impairment away from their management and profit centers. That is, the “disability inclusion” that these organizations commit to does not extend to all of their activities. Disability D&I leaders, for example, manufacture and use weaponry intended to kill and maim, provide and use technology essential for immigration enforcement policies demonstrated to harm targets, and sell products that create conditions of impairment and disability. In terms of broader impacts, this paper explains why recruiters may wish to investigate the attitudes prospective pools of employees hold toward specific business activities.

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