In August, The Harkin Institute for Public Policy & Citizen Engagement hosted a first-of-its-kind regional Harkin Summit – the Iowa Summit on Disability Employment in Ankeny, Iowa, on August 19. Due to the ongoing global pandemic and the limitation on in person attendance, the Iowa Summit was a hybrid event with a real time livestream. We gathered with local business leaders, service providers and disability allies from around the state do discuss the importance and necessity of employment for individuals with disabilities.

“If you are looking for employees, look at persons with disabilities,” Senator Tom Harkin

Here are a few pieces that stood out to me:

    • Claudia Gordon of T-Mobile, the opening keynote speaker, spoke about how the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed more than 30 years ago, but we are still asking why competitive integrated employment matters and focusing on compliance.
    • Awareness of people with disabilities and employment are good but it is no longer enough to just be aware – companies need to start hiring.
    • Over 28,000 people with disabilities are currently unemployed and want to work.
    • People with disabilities can work in any industry, including meat packing and whiskey distilling. Leaders from Miniat Meats and Templeton Rye provided insights from their own experiences hiring employees with disabilities.
    • True change doesn’t happen without getting uncomfortable and it is okay to be uncomfortable.
    • People with disabilities are the future.

“If you can hire people with disabilities in meat processing, you can do it anywhere” Chuck Nalon, Miniat Meats

One of the recurring themes expressed by our amazing set of speakers was to just start and say yes to hiring people with disabilities.

If your company or organization has thought about hiring individuals with disabilities – this is a great to time to just start. Our has great information on how to implement more inclusive hiring practices. It also includes a list of every community organization in Iowa that works with people with disabilities who are looking for work and will work with your company or organization to find the potential employees to fit your needs.

– Joseph Jones, Executive Director, The Harkin Institute


Address: 2429 University Avenue, Des Moines, IA 50311 Phone: 515-271-3623 Fax Number: 515-271-3631 Email: Office Hours: Monday to Friday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.