U.S. Secretary of Labor Tom Perez, Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth, Delaware Governor Jack Markell, Former Congressman Tony Coelho, executives, experts and innovators join two-day summit to increase inclusion of people with disabilities in education and employment

CHICAGO — More than 300 civic, business and government leaders are gathered at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois in Chicago today to examine the progress since the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed 25 years ago and challenge Chicago-area leaders to advance its promise of economic self-sufficiency and full participation at the Disability Inclusion Opportunity Summit.

More than one in 10 Illinoisans have a disability – representing a significant consumer market and a largely untapped talent pool, as only 35 percent of the state’s working-age people with disabilities are employed, compared to 75 percent of those without disabilities. Gathered by ADA 25 Chicago, participants are exploring robust strategies to increase inclusion of people with disabilities in education and employment in order to maximize our region’s economic vitality.

“Twenty-five years after the signing of the ADA, too many people with disabilities are not integrated into our workplaces and marketplaces and, as a result, face lives of hardship rather than opportunity,” said Terry Mazany, President and CEO of The Chicago Community Trust, which led creation of ADA 25 Chicago. “Despite 25 years of great progress, people with disabilities still have higher poverty rates, poorer educational outcomes and lower employment rates and than those without disabilities.”

“We created ADA 25 Chicago to spark long-lasting changes to improve access, inclusion and opportunities for people with disabilities in the Chicago region, and are delighted that nearly 200 partner organizations signed on,” said Marca Bristo, President and CEO of Access Living and Co-Chair of ADA 25 Chicago. “At this two-day Summit, we are celebrating legacy projects created as a result of ADA 25 Chicago and hope to equip Chicago’s leaders with expert knowledge about how to implement full inclusion in education, employment and technology.”

ADA 25 Chicago Legacy Projects highlighted today include a first-of-its-kind Leadership Institute for People with Disabilities designed to expand inclusion in Chicago’s civic life, the newly reinvigorated Chicagoland Business Leadership Network (CBLN) – a business-to-business organization focused on employment of people with disabilities – as well as the City’s first Mayoral Literacy Task Force.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel attended the Summit to announce the establishment of a city-wide Literacy Task Force to address the reading achievement gap between the 60,000 CPS students with Individualized Education Plans and those without.

“Economic and educational empowerment for people with disabilities is the next frontier in the fight for equal access. Today we have an unacceptable achievement gap of 43 percent in terms of reading proficiency between students with and without disabilities,” said Mayor Emanuel. “That is why I am pleased to announce that this week I will be launching the City’s first Mayoral Task Force to raise the literacy achievement of our students with disabilities. It will identify the causes of this achievement gap, develop a set of recommendations that are realistic and aggressive for closing it and identify a mechanism to measure the results in our student progress.”

Today’s Summit program, “Maximizing Access to Education, Employment and Technology,” focuses on education and employment as the key levers to opening doors to the untapped talent pool of people with disabilities, and showcase how technology is a catalyst for greater access and inclusion. Speakers include:

•    The Honorable Tom Perez – U.S. Secretary of Labor
•    Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth – U.S. House of Representatives
•    Governor Jack Markell – State of Delaware
•    Mayor Rahm Emanuel – City of Chicago
•    Tony Coelho – Former U.S. Congressman and Primary Sponsor of the ADA
•    Kareem Dale – Director and Senior Counsel, Discover Financial Services; Former Special Assistant to President Barack Obama for Disability Policy
•    Dr. Larry Goodman – CEO, Rush University Medical Center
•    John Hockenberry – National Journalist and Author
•    Megan Hobson – Partner, Ernst & Young, LLP, Americas Administration Leader
•    Mark Owen – President, Governmental Affairs, Health Care Service Corporation
•    Steve Pemberton – Vice President and Global Chief Diversity Officer, Walgreens Boots Alliance; Chair, U.S. Business Leadership Network
•    Karen Tamley – Commissioner, City of Chicago Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities

•    Among others

Tomorrow’s Summit session, entitled “Best Practices and Strategies for Recruiting, Employing & Retaining People with Disabilities,” will focus on hands-on strategies and tactics around employment of people with disabilities with an audience of employers and human resources, talent acquisition, diversity and inclusion professionals. This session is presented by the CBLN, an affiliate of the U.S. Business Leadership Network driven by the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce Foundation.

To view the Opportunity Summit agenda, visit: www.ADAOpportunitySummit.EventBrite.com.

Join the Opportunity Summit conversations on social media using #OpportunitySummit and follow ADA 25 Chicago @ADA25Chicago and Facebook.com/ADA25Chicago.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois is the Opportunity Summit’s signature sponsor and host. ADA 25 Chicago sponsors include The Chicago Community Trust, Exelon, Walgreens Boots Alliance and Motorola Mobility.

CBLN charter partners include AT&T, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois, Comcast, McDonald’s Corporation and University of Phoenix. CBLN Sustaining Partners include Baxalta, Baxter, BMO Harris, Deloitte, Discover Financial Services, EY, Grainger, Hyatt, inQUEST, KPMG, ManpowerGroup, Northern Trust and Walgreens Boots Alliance.

ADA 25 Chicago is a network of nearly 200 civic partners who have come together to commemorate and advance a civil rights milestone – the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Despite 25 years of progress, people with disabilities still have higher poverty rates, lower employment and poorer educational outcomes than those without disabilities. The vision of ADA 25 Chicago is to help make Metropolitan Chicago the most inclusive region in the nation. The Chicago Community Trust is the lead supporter of ADA 25 Chicago. For more information, visit www.ADA25Chicago.org. #ADA25Chicago

Chicagoland Business Leadership Network (CBLN), an affiliate of the U.S. Business Leadership Network driven by the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce Foundation, looks to advance the employment of individuals with disabilities. CBLN will facilitate the creation of workplaces, marketplaces and supply chains where people with disabilities are included by convening solution-focused forums that will help employers overcome traditional barriers to hiring people with disabilities. As a legacy project of ADA 25 Chicago, CBLN seeks 25 business members to create a vibrant business-to-business network with the long-term goal of reducing the unemployment rate for people with disabilities.