Leading Disability Organizations are Disappointed Nasdaq Board Diversity Reporting Rule Excludes Disability Community

For Immediate Release: 08/12/2021
Contact: Rachita Singh, rsingh@aapd.com

Decision signals to corporate America that people with disabilities do not count in diversity metrics, despite institutional investors and over  200 civil rights groups advocating for disability inclusion

 

WASHINGTON, DC –  American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) and Disability:IN are deeply disappointed that today the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) did not recommend that Nasdaq include people with disabilities in a final rule, Release No. 34-90574, that requires U.S.-listed companies to meet certain diversity objectives within their boards of directors and report on their progress towards these objectives. AAPD believes that Nasdaq missed an important opportunity to demonstrate to corporate America that people with disabilities matter in diversity metrics and that disability disclosure is a material issue for investors.

AAPD, Disability:IN, institutional investors, and more than 200 leading civil rights organizations strongly advocated for the inclusion of people with disabilities in the diversity reporting rule, which in its current form requires reporting on the number of women, racial and ethnic minorities, and LGBTQ+ people within corporate boards. 

“The disability community comprises 1.3 billion people worldwide, including nearly 33 million working-age Americans, and should be included in corporate diversity initiatives and in the national conversation around diversity and equality. We repeatedly engaged Nasdaq and the SEC to make the case that people with disabilities are a marginalized minority group akin to women, racial and ethnic minorities, and LGBTQ+. While these populations were rightfully included, people with disabilities were wrongly left out,” stated Ted Kennedy, Jr., Co-Chair, Disability Equality Index, a joint initiative by AAPD and Disability:IN. “By omitting people with disabilities, Nasdaq sends the message to corporate America that people with disabilities don’t count in diversity metrics—in sharp contrast to the increasing number of civil rights organizations, CEOs, companies, institutional investors, and shareholders who say disability is a vital aspect of diversity.” 

In February, AAPD and Disability:IN issued a letter to the SEC as well as to Nasdaq CEO Adena Friedman regarding the omission of people with disabilities in their board diversity proposal. New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli also submitted a letter to the SEC. AAPD and Disability:IN submitted a subsequent letter to the SEC outlining supportive economic evidence, investor interest, benefits to corporate culture, similar existing regulation, and ease of compliance for including people with disabilities in the definition. The letter has a strong focus on how the inclusion aids investors.

Additionally, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a coalition of more than 200 civil and human rights organizations, wrote a letter to the SEC, and Nasdaq received a joint letter from the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce, National Veteran-Owned Business Association, US Black Chamber, United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, US Pan Asian American Chamber of Commerce, Women Impacting Public Policy, and Out & Equal, voicing their support for disability inclusion in the Nasdaq initiative. 

“In July, we celebrated the 31st anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the civil rights law recognizing people with disabilities as a discrete minority population that has been subjected to discrimination and denied access to employment based on myths, fears, and stereotypes—leading to extreme economic and social inequality,” said Jill Houghton, President and CEO, Disability:IN. “The ADA defines disability as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities for an individual. It is these very experiences that make people with disabilities vital assets to corporate boards. Boards govern better when members can lend their diverse abilities and perspectives. In fact, disability is the very definition of diversity, as it does not discriminate on the basis of sex, race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, age, or nationality.”

More than 65 CEOs have signed the Disability:IN CEO Letter on Disability Inclusion. They referenced an independent analysis from the Accenture report, “Getting to Equal: The Disability Inclusion Advantage,” citing that companies that are more inclusive of persons with disabilities gain increased profit and long-term value. Over a four-year period, these companies reported 28% higher revenue, double the net income, and 30% higher profit margins as well as higher total shareholder returns.

AAPD will continue to work with Nasdaq, the SEC and other exchanges, and other organizations on future initiatives that positively impact board diversity. Advocating on behalf of over one billion people with disabilities, alongside 280 corporate partners and many allies, is at the heart of building a global inclusive economy.

 

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The American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) is a convener, connector, and catalyst for change, increasing the political and economic power of people with disabilities. As a national cross-disability rights organization, AAPD advocates for full civil rights for the over 61 million Americans with disabilities by promoting equal opportunity, economic power, independent living, and political participation. To learn more, visit the AAPD website: www.aapd.com.

Disability:IN is a global organization driving disability inclusion and equality in business. More than 280 corporations trust Disability:IN to activate and achieve disability inclusion across their enterprise and in the broader corporate mainstream. Through the world’s most comprehensive disability inclusion benchmarking; best-in-class conferences and programs; and expert counsel and engagement, Disability:IN works with leading businesses to create long-term business and societal impact. Join us at disabilityin.org/AreYouIN #AreYouIN

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