I am traveling to San Francisco next week to attend the annual conference of the Disability Management Employer Coalition. It will be the first time I have attended this particular event. The conference runs August 2 – 5, 2015 at the San Francisco Marriott Marquis Hotel.

Founded in 1992, the Disability Management Employer Coalition (DMEC) is an association “dedicated to knowledge, education and professional networking in integrated disability, absence management and return to work solutions”. According to it’s website, DMEC and its network of local chapters provide companies with “trusted information, strategies, tools and management resources to minimize lost work time and improve workforce productivity.”

If you’ve read my blog for any length of time, than my interest in the organization should be pretty obvious. The mission of the organization, “To advance strategies and resources that improve workforce productivity by minimizing the impact of absence and disability”, represents the future of workforce optimization principles. As a society, employers must become engaged and involved in protecting and keeping the human assets that make up their operation. Today’s tendency to dump workers into the depths of disability dependency simply is not a sustainable practice for our economy or society.

Of course, the “impact of absence and disability” can be felt for a variety of reasons, only one of which is workers’ compensation. A study a few years ago by the Saskatchewan WCB discovered that employers in that Canadian Province spent far more money on absence caused by non-work related injury and illness than they did for those that were work related. This is what lead to the development of their “Mission Zero” project, trying to build a culture of safety and awareness that reaches far beyond the factory walls, and into the everyday lives of its citizenry. 

With 11,000,000 of our fellow citizens now languishing on Social Security Disability, we can ill afford to ignore the broader cause much longer. DMEC represents the way forward in engaging employers everywhere to do their part in protecting both their workforce and our culture. 

I once heard Ryan Guppy, Chief of Return to Work Partnerships for Washington L&I, make an excellent point regarding the shifting attitudes on disability in our country. Guppy pointed out (these are not his exact words, as noted many times I am a terrible note taker. Plus I had probably been drinking) that 25 years ago thousands of people with disabilities rose up and demanded the right to work alongside their non-disabled counterparts, and the ADA was passed on that momentum. It is ironic, therefore, that the ADA has become today a tool used in preventing people from ever returning to work. 

We have to change that – not by more laws, but through education and improved awareness. That is what, at least to me, organizations such as the DMEC can bring to the table.

I look forward to attending the conference and learning what they have to say. I will attempt to relay that information here (although admittedly I am still trying to get a couple AASCIF articles out from my last San Fran trip 4 weeks ago. It has been a hectic summer.) 

For those of you headed to the conference, bring your sweaters,and I’ll see you there.


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