The Purchasing Power of People with Disabilities

The Purchasing Power of People with Disabilities

When: Thursday, April 22, 2021, 2:00 – 3:30 PM ET

Recording: Click here.


In the marketplace, people with disabilities—as well as their families, friends, and advocates—wield considerable spending power. People with disabilities have nearly half a trillion dollars in disposable income—the after-tax dollars for basic necessities such as housing, food, and clothing. They have sizeable resources to purchase high-quality services and products, ranging from general financial services and homes, cars, and furniture to accessible technology, long-term care services, and other disability-related products and services.

The CDC reported in 2019 that 25.5% of people in the U.S. self-identify as having a disability. This under-recognized market sector offers tremendous potential to the business community, which is still learning about how to design, develop, and market products and services to this significant portion of the population.

Join the Institute for Educational Leadership (IEL), the American Institutes for Research (AIR), and a panel of regional and global business leaders on April 22, 2021, at 2:00 – 3:30 pm ET for a discussion about the benefits to the business community in serving customers with disabilities. The panelists will discuss business strategies for inclusion of people with disabilities and their families from design to marketing to hiring. Learn more about the research behind this topic here.

Speakers include:

  • Howard Arden, Talent Acquisition Specialist, Novo Health Services
  • Apoorva N. Gandhi, Vice President, Multicultural Affairs and Business Councils, Marriott International, Inc.
  • Steve Pemberton, Author/Executive/Speaker and Chief Human Resource Officer, Workhuman
  • Hale Pulsifer, Vice President for Accessibility, Fidelity Investments
  • Dahlia Shaewitz, Vice President, Transition Disability & Inclusion, Institute for Educational Leadership
  • Dr. Michelle Yin, Principal Economist, American Institutes for Research, and Director and Assistant Professor, Northwestern University


Howard Arden, Talent Acquisition Specialist, Novo Health Services
Howard Arden leads staffing, employee relations, and legal human resources compliance at Novo Health Services, a regional health care service provider. Howard Arden has led human resources and talent acquisition for organizations that include Panasonic, CAP Gemini America, and Home Depot. He also served as the Career Services Manager for the non-profit Jewish Family & Career Services of Atlanta, where he managed a department that assisted individuals with vocational challenges to find employment. Howard has worked both to help people with intellectual challenges to attain employment and as an employer to increase hiring of individuals with intellectual challenges.

Apoorva N. Gandhi, Vice President, Multicultural Affairs and Business Councils, Marriott International, Inc.
Apoorva Gandhi is responsible for creating and executing an externally focused global strategy that builds preference and loyalty from diverse customer segments for the Marriott portfolio of brands. He helps ensure the company’s marketing, sales and operations consider and reflect multi-cultural markets and public affairs as Marriott continues its aggressive growth throughout the world. Mr. Gandhi has nearly 30 years of proven strategy, business process, program management and organizational change skills, leadership and delivery expertise. He also has extensive management and delivery experience working with diverse business clients and a solid track record delivering measurable success to clients across various business disciplines. Prior to his current position, Mr. Gandhi was senior director for organizational capability where he led the company’s global reorganization program in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia. He also worked as vice president for global lodging services where he helped deliver critical brand initiatives.

Steve Pemberton, Author/Executive/Speaker and Chief Human Resources Officer, Workhuman
Steve Pemberton is a leading provider of social recognition and continuous performance development solutions that bring humanity to the world through positive recognition in the workplace. As CHRO at Workhuman he is responsible for all aspects of people function from talent acquisition and human resource systems to performance management. Prior to that, Steve served as the first ever Global Chief Diversity Officer for Walgreens Boots Alliance, the first global pharmacy-led, health and wellbeing enterprise in the world. In 2015, he was appointed by U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez to serve on the Advisory Committee for the Competitive Integrated Employment of People with Disabilities, and he was awarded the prestigious Horizon Award by the U.S. Congress. One of America’s most inspiring executives, he brings a deep personal understanding of human differences and the human experience to his position. Steve was a ward of the state for much of his childhood, an experience he chronicled in his USA Today best-selling memoir, A Chance in the World (Thomas Nelson). Steve has also created the A Chance in the World Foundation, which helps young adults who age out of the foster care system.

Hale Pulsifer, Vice President for Accessibility, Fidelity Investments
Hale Pulsifer works in the Office of Customer Accessibility at Fidelity Investments. In this role, Mr. Pulsifer works to optimize customer interactions for people with disabilities by ensuring that accessibility is a design principal in everything we do at Fidelity. In addition, Mr. Pulsifer is the former national co-chair of the Fidelity Enable Employee Resource Group for associates impacted by disabilities. Fidelity is a leading provider of investment management, retirement planning, portfolio guidance, brokerage, benefits outsourcing and other financial products and services to more than 20 million individuals, institutions and financial intermediaries.

Dahlia Shaewitz, Vice President for Transition, Disability and Employment, Institute for Educational Leadership
Dahlia Shaewitz leads teams of experts in policy, practice, and research in the areas of disability, youth transition, and workforce development. She is an expert in knowledge translation—helping both researchers and end users to understand and effectively communicate data and information that can have a positive impact on our lives. Ms. Shaewitz develops strategies and approaches to empower youth and adults with and without disabilities to create their futures and lead their communities toward greater inclusion and financial independence. She has collaborated with vocational rehabilitation agencies to evaluate strategies to improve employment outcomes for youth and adults with disabilities; universities to develop in-person and online training for researchers, practitioners, and people with disabilities; private corporations to build greater awareness of the value of hiring people with disabilities; and other stakeholders to create a climate of full inclusion of people with disabilities in all aspects of work including design, development, and implementation of products and processes.

Michelle Yin, Ph.D., Principal Economist, American Institutes for Research, and Director and Assistant Professor, Northwestern University
Dr. Yin is a research and policy expert in special education and disability employment. Dr. Yin is also Director and Assistant Professor at Northwestern University where she led the Dual Master’s Degree in Applied Economics and Social and Economic Policy at the School of Education and Social Policy. Having grown up in China where children with disabilities are put in segregated schools had led Dr. Yin to devote much of her time testing interventions to help children and adults with disabilities to improve school and labor market outcomes using rigorous designs. Dr. Yin recently developed a global evaluation framework for Special Olympics that will be employed by more than 170 countries to encompass educational and social activities in different countries, languages, and cultures that consistently reflect the outcomes of children with and without intellectual disabilities. Her work has been published and featured in leading journals and newspapers, such as the Journal of Labor Economics, Diversity Business Review, The Wall Street Journal, and The Hill.

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