My Classmates and I Want to Start a Conversation About Employing People With Disabilities

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By Abigail Flis, BBA ‘17

In 1975, the number of people diagnosed with autism was about 1 in every 5,000. Today that number is more like 1 in 100. More young people with autism are graduating high school than ever before, and at the same time, the unemployment rate for people with disabilities is more than double the national rate.

I know this is something the Michigan Ross community can help with, and that is exactly what I’ve been working on.

As the vice president of external affairs of a business fraternity on campus (Phi Chi Theta), I’m used to working with corporate sponsors in order to organize recruiting events and other engagement opportunities for our members. But, this year, we wanted to do something that takes the business skills we’re learning through our Ross classes and uses them to make an impact in our community.  

That’s why we’re teaming up with Michigan Rehabilitation Services, Washtenaw Interagency Network for Autism, and the global business community to start a conversation about employing people with disabilities.

There are already great programs available to prepare people with disabilities for jobs, but many of the business owners who can make hiring decisions are unaware of these benefits and programs – so that’s where I’m hoping we can come in.  

On Thursday, October 20th, at 7p.m., Phi Chi Theta is hosting a Community Conversation at Ross.

The event is designed to bring businesspeople and educators together to brainstorm ways to increase employment among people with cognitive disabilities. 

We have a great lineup of panelists, including employers with Microsoft, Ford, Zingerman's, Kroger, Lowe's, and Bivouac. We’ll hear from them about how they’ve implemented programs to employ people with disabilities, and how those practices have worked – and we’ll have a roundtable discussion about other potential solutions.

Throughout the course of planning this event, I’ve gotten to meet with experts in special education and disability services, recruiting heads at Fortune 500 companies, community leaders, and business owners. It’s been so special to see students and business leaders as passionate as I am to work to address this issue.

The event is open to anyone interested in creating change in this space, HR professionals, business owners, and my fellow Ross students.

If you’re interested in joining us, please RSVP

Following the Community Conversation, we will be partnering with local organizations to provide job training and peer mentorship to young people with disabilities, and we will continue to educate the business community on why this is such a pressing issue.


Abigail Flis is a senior in the Michigan Ross BBA program, and vice president for external affairs for the local chapter of Phi Chi Theta, a national business fraternity.