Inaugural event deemed a success, 2017 event planning underway


The inaugural Harkin International Disability Employment Summit was held in Washington, DC, on December 8 and 9 of 2016. Over 180 participants from 31 countries gathered to identify strategies for increasing competitive integrated employment around the world. Sponsored by the Harkin Institute for Public Policy and Citizen Engagement and spearheaded by Sen. Tom Harkin (retired) of Iowa, the Summit was attended by international business leaders, philanthropists, disability advocates, and government representatives.

The event kicked off with a welcome from Sen. Harkin, comments by Delaware Governor Jack Markell, and a keynote address by Ken Fredeen, general counsel for Deloitte Canada. At lunch that day, Tim Shriver, Chairman of Special Olympics International, introduced the former President of Malawi, Dr. Joyce Banda, who convened the first pan-African conference on disability rights during her presidency in 2014. In her remarks at the Summit, she spoke about the importance of including people with disabilities in the economic mainstream of all countries.

Throughout the conference, the 180 international participants worked to worked together in small group sessions to identify strategies to increase disability employment in their respective countries. They developed approaches for the business case for disability employment, drafted ideas for government policies to support employment of people with disabilities, and generated innovative strategies to improve disability employment.

The Summit was coordinated by the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD) in conjunction with Handicap International, the Harkin Institute, the United States International Council on Disabilities, the College of Global Inclusion and Social Development at the University of Massachusetts-Boston, and the United States Business Leadership Network.

On the second day of the event, the morning began with a review of the state of employment across the globe. Current US Secretary of Labor Tom Perez spoke to Summit attendees about the civil rights of people with disabilities and the importance of ensuring they are included in the mainstream of economies around the world. The Summit was closed by Sen. Harkin, who charged participants to return to their organization, government, and country to implement the ideas developed during the two days in order to accelerate employment of people with disabilities.

The Harkin Institute plans to hold the second annual Harkin International Disability Employment Summit in the Fall of 2017.

Press Coverage of the Harkin Summit

View photos from the event