Category Archives: Commentary

An opinion I have on a particular subject

Light switches? What light switches?

A few years ago I realized that I no longer care about light switches. I have included a story on how I came to this conclusion and how it has affected my perspective on light-dependent people. After reflecting on the story, I suspect it has something to do with awareness. The story is a quick read, with a little food for thought. Comments and sharing are always welcome.

In this post:


Story: Light switches? What light switches?


Note: The postscript is part of the story. Please include it in your reading.

My Pa came to this country from Italy just before World War II broke out in 1939. Grandma Lococo wanted her grandchildren to grow up as Americans. This had a lot to do with the fact that Mussolini was aligned with Germany during the war. So, even though I cherish my Sicilian heritage, I grew up recognizing the importance of fitting in.

I have never had good vision. When I was 10 years old I had surgery to correct Strabismus, which presents as crossed eyes. The surgery eliminated the appearance of someone with vision problems. It also resulted in feeling a need to fit in with those with more vision than me.

I did a decent job of fitting in while growing up. My vision affected my participation in ball sports but that wasn’t a big deal. I found ways to engage with my peers that didn’t involve a high reliance on vision. I was a runner and, ironically, I was pretty hot stuff on a dirt bike.

My vision got progressively worse as I entered my 20’s. The tricks I used to cover my bad vision got more sophisticated and less effective as time went on. Pausing with my eyes closed for a minute before entering a building allowed me to dilate my pupils before going into artificial light. Saying “good morning” to the person coming toward me in a hallway worked well for a while, but was awkward when repeated multiple times to the same person.

Eventually, I realized I needed to let go of my reliance on my vision. I also recognized that many of the things I used to do to cover up my failing vision serve no real purpose. Others, are quite useful: Sending a photograph to someone prior to a first meeting in a public space simplifies connecting with people. It also avoids having to explain that I have no way of visually identifying someone in a public venue. Relying on the sound of traffic to safely cross busy streets, not so much.

When we moved to our condominium in 2019 I was surprised by the number of light switches in the 975 square foot space. Lights don’t do anything for me so knowing what each of the 24 light switches did was not information I needed to know. Illumination adds no value to the way I occupy a space. It’s just not relevant to me.

The revelation of the light switches was a freeing experience. It made me wonder how many other things I do out of habit or cultural convention. As a result, I spend less and less time focusing on doing things that are primarily performative. I simply don’t have the time, or attention span, to focus my energy on things that don’t matter to me – light the position of light switches.

Applying the lessons

I do not have anything against people who care about light switches. It doesn’t bother me if people ask me to turn a light switch on or off. I have my opinions but I keep them to myself. Who am I to pass judgement on how others spend their time and energy. Heck, some of my best friends use light switches.

I figure, you do you. But really, if it were up to me, there would be a lot less light switches in this world. Light switches are really just the start of it. The problem with light switches is that they connect to lights and lights illuminate things. Once people start illuminating things they start wanting them to appear a certain way. And that’s OK, but not on my dime. For example, the Light Field exhibition that took place in Milwaukee from January 19 to May 5 is something that consumed resources and public park space. And for what? So some light dependent people could have some enjoyment? That’s just wrong to use public space for such a niche exhibit. The Jazz in the Park series in the summer makes perfect sense, but a light exhibit from January to May, that’s just wrong-headed.



This essay was intentionally written through a satirical lens. I focus my writing on illuminating topics that affect our shared pursuit of liberty and justice for all through principles of Servant Leadership, . I thought I would try my hand at looking through a very narrow lens of someone who doesn’t see and doesn’t have much use for the things that benefit sighted people. It is true that illumination is only a very small part of my experience but I appreciate how others depend on and receive pleasure from being able to see. I firmly believe our lives are enriched through an appreciation of what lies beyond the scope of our own experiences.





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Mansplaining and Servant Leadership

I was asked to clarify the connections between my writing and my work as a barrier knocker downer. The story below reflects my thoughts. The story will serve as a jumping off point for the Mainstreaming on Main Street® (MoMS) Connecters Table and Servant-Leader roundtable taking place in April. The story is a quick read, with a little food for thought. Comments and sharing are always welcome.

In this post:


Story: Mansplaining and Servant Leadership

Jim K. Recently shared, “I have struggled with recent topics being chosen for the Servant Leader Roundtable vs. relevance to the core Servant Leadership principles…. However, this set of topics as a “jumping off point” for a Servant Leader Roundtable discussion seems less relevant. I find myself wondering how such matters relate to spreading support for servant leadership and its principles as an effective leadership style. Perhaps I have found a learning edge of my own here.”

This is a response to Jim’s comment, posed as a follow on to Mansplaining and intersectionality, published on April 11. I welcome the opportunity to think more deeply about the work I support and the ideas I share with others. My thanks to Jim for his request for clarification.

My conversation with Alea was focused on building a space where persons with disabilities (PWD) could feel comfortable sharing stories of their own personal experiences. My explanation of how PWD can feel excluded in many environments took three phases:

  1. I provided an explanation on the assumption of ignorance of understanding of exclusion
  2. I recognized Alea’s experience as a person of color provided insights that intersect with those of the experiences of PWD
  3. I recognized the experience of disability and being a person of color have significant overlap but are not fully comparable

In summary: my ability to collaboratively conceptualize a space with someone who may/or may not understand the experiences of the people who will populate that space is limited by my ability to build a common vision of that space. Assuming ignorance demonstrates a lack of understanding of the experiences of disenfranchised people. Assuming equivalency of experience is naive on my part. I believe these subtleties may be irrelevant to a top-down leader but are likely to be important to a Servant-Leader.


Looking out at the world

Over the past 15 years I have spent time exploring the intersection of leadership and disenfranchised populations. This exploration has spanned from formal education to service on boards of directors to facilitating conversations among white people and people of color, to casual conversations with peers in the disability and/or queer community. I began incorporating the principles of Servant Leadership into my practice in 2011. These experiences have enriched me in ways I cannot fully explain.


The work of leadership

I approach the work of leadership as building community and stewardship of that community through foresight and conceptualization. Foresight is developed through the skills of listening, empathy, and awareness.

A leader relies on their own capacity of listening, empathy and awareness as key elements of foresight and conceptualization. This is especially true in understanding when and how to enlist others in engaging in the community.

Community is built through engaging with others for a common purpose. The Servant-Leader enlists others by engaging individuals who are willing and able to participate in the building/stewardship of the community and by developing individuals who are willing to engage but may not have the immediate capacity to engage in the building/stewardship of the community. The Servant-Leader is aware of the importance of (the sometimes precarious) balance of growing the capacities of individuals and allowing individuals to extend their own capacity through self-directed activities.


Conceptualizing Larry Spears’ 10 characteristics of a Servant-Leader.

Early in my Servant-Leader journey, I found Larry Spears’ 10 characteristics of a Servant-Leader to be a window into the work of Robert K. Greenleaf. I have organized Spears’ characteristics into three areas of focus:

  • Self development:
  • Listening
  • Empathy
  • Awareness


  • Engagement with others:
  • Commitment to the development of others


  • Recognition of the power of healing
  • Use of persuasion over authority


  • Leadership practice:


  • Foresight
  • Conceptualization
  • Building community
  • Stewardship of community


Lessons learned

I have always lived in a diverse world. I grew up reciting the “Pledge of Allegiance”: in school. Written in 1892, by a socialist minister, the pledge speaks of a commitment to, “liberty and justice for all.” Making a commitment to liberty and justice for all, like making a commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, is not always an easy path to follow. While the principles of Servant-Leadership are not challenging in theory, their application can be. Two thoughts that bring the intersection of Servant-Leadership, equity and inclusion together for me are:

  • “Awareness is not a giver of solace–it is just the opposite. It is a disturber and an awakener. Able leaders are usually sharply awake and reasonably disturbed.” Robert K. Greenleaf
  • “We are each of us broken, and yet, we are all whole persons. It is in recognizing our brokenness that we realize our wholeness.” Dan Lococo


Applying the lessons:

Jim’s question provided me with an opportunity to reflect on the intersection of Servant-Leadership and a commitment to liberty and justice for all. I am grateful for that opportunity. The Servant-Leader roundtables and the Mainstreaming on Main Street® (MoMS) Connecters Tables, are opportunities to extend our level of understanding of each other through the lens of our aspirational principles.

A few of the questions that came up for me as part of my reflecting:

  • How do I recognize when I’m facing my learning edges?
  • How do I let someone know I am reaching the limits of my learning edges?
  • How do I honor the discomfort of others as they embrace their learning edges?
  • How do I honor the fact that empathy is different from having a clear understanding of the experiences of others?

We will use these questions as a jumping off point for both the Mainstreaming on Main Street® (MoMS) Connecters Table on April 25 and the (in-person) Servant-Leader roundtable on April 27.




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Mansplaining and intersectionality

I found myself “mansplaining” recently and it got me thinking about experiences shared (and not shared). The story will serve as a jumping off point for the Mainstreaming on Main Street® (MoMS) Connecters Table and Servant-Leader roundtable taking place in April. The story is a quick read, with a little food for thought. Comments and sharing are always welcome.

In this post:


Story: Mansplaining and intersectionality

I have been working with Milwaukee’s Ex Fabula on a collaboration to bring persons with disabilities into a storytelling space. A recent conversation with Alea McHatten brought us to ideas of how we might focus the experience to allow participants to explore the intersection of disability and inclusion. I explained that a challenge of inclusion in professional settings is that organizational infrastructure often lacks the capacity to support the inclusion of diverse individuals. As a result, the individuals within an organization often reflect a narrow profile. Those who are outside the capacity of that infrastructure either are looked upon as being a poor fit for the organization or thought of as not being qualified for inclusion.

Thinking back on the conversation. I realized Alea might have wondered why this old white guy felt a need to mansplain white privilege to them. I sent Alea a note saying, “I realized, later, that you may have not needed an explanation of how people have a narrow view of the world and don’t relate to what is outside their understanding.  It would have been completely appropriate for you to say, ‘You don’t need to mansplain: I know what white privilege is.’ Sorry about that.” Alea was understanding and thanked me for my self-awareness.

Later still, it occurred to me that I was describing ablism – the conscious/unconscious lack of awareness of accessibility. My intention was not to mansplain white privilege, even though it sounded a lot like it. The fact is, ablism and white privilege have similar structures and presentations. Describing ablism does sound a lot like explaining white privilege.

Lessons learned:

I am fortunate to be able to engage with a variety of individuals from a variety of backgrounds. The hopes and dreams of people reflect common themes. So do the fears and challenges of individuals. The experiences of inclusion (and exclusion) echo across groups. The recognition that ablism sounds a lot like white privilege isn’t surprising. I explored a similar pattern in a recent essay, “The Binary and the Yin Yang,” describing the experiences of my queer peers with their religious upbringing.

Social constructs, such as ablism and white privilege, reflect principles found in accounting and quality management. The “relevant range” describes the boundaries where expectations are not likely to be challenged. The experiences of my queer peers were illustrative of the concept of the relevant range. The experience of being seen as “other” is a common feature of those who see themselves as a member of a disenfranchised group. As the United States becomes more diverse, and as more people seek to validate their own unique identity, there is a natural fear of someday ” being othered.”

My wife, Helen, introduced me to the idea of “learning edges” during her Chaplain residency. A definition of learning edges that resonates with me: “Your learning edge is located just above your competency zone – just inside your anxiety zone” (Mitchell , 2014). The challenge of acknowledging diversity through equity, inclusion, and belonging is that embracing diversity requires us to recognize the discomfort that goes with learning edges.

My conversation with Alea gave the impression that my understanding of ablism gives me an equivalent understanding of white privilege. This presumed equivalency implies that I expect that Alea has a clear understanding of what it means to be an old, white, blind guy. Both assumptions seem a bit nieve. I might even be offended if Alea suggested that to me. This understanding each other stuff can be messy. The fact that understanding diversity is complicated seems a poor excuse to give up on “Liberty and justice for all.”

“We are more alike, my friends,

than we are unalike” Maya Angelou

Applying the lessons:

I am grateful to Alea for the opportunity to reflect on how I (sometimes) explore hard subjects with others. In my work facilitating Servant-Leader roundtables and the Mainstreaming on Main Street® (MoMS) Connecters Table, as well as other groups I am a part of, I welcome the opportunity to think with others. This isn’t always easy work but it’s satisfying work. It is especially rewarding when our collaboration extends our level of understanding of each other.

A few of the questions that came up for me as part of my reflecting:

  • How do I recognize when I’m facing my learning edges?
  • How do I let someone know I am reaching the limits of my learning edges?
  • How do I honor the discomfort of others as they embrace their learning edges?
  • How do I honor the fact that empathy is different from having a clear understanding of the experiences of others?


## References


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Law and order or political theater

A part of me views Donald Trump’s inditement over using campaign funds to coverup an extramarital affair as chasing trivia. I suspect this is a sentiment that spans political perspectives. Some might think, :The man has broken so many other laws, this is a waste of time.” Others might find such an indictment to be merely political theater.

There seems an opportunity here to have a conversation on how laws are applied in this country. Should a man allowed to use campaign funds, collected to make him look good in the eyes of the public, to avoid looking bad in the eyes of the public? Should a person be put in a potentially deadly situation over a broken tail light? What is law and order and what is political theater? Yeah, I don’t know.

Consult a fool remix

“The answer was right in front of me.” I shared the story, “Consult a Fool – remix” at an Ex Fabula Story Slam last week. Being open to unexpected sources of wisdom is the topic for the Servant-Leader roundtable this Thursday, March 23 at 8:00 am (CDT) . The story is a quick read, with a little food for thought. Comments and sharing are always welcome.

In this post:


Story: Consult a fool – remix*

I hear the door open and the sound of little footsteps. I say, “Good morning Emelia. How did you sleep?” She says, “Why is it so dark in here?” I open the shades and flip one of the light switches. I decide not to start a conversation on how some people see and others don’t. Giving and getting hugs is a much better idea.

As I hug my four year old granddaughter, I am reminded that when her Mom, Rachel, was her age I sometimes referred to her as my, “Seeing eye kid.” I’m not sure when either of my daughters found out I didn’t see, but Rachel and I quickly became partners in crime.

One of the earliest projects Rachel and I worked on together was preparing the upper flat of the duplex we owned on the East Side of Milwaukee for rent. When we moved into the flat five years earlier, we found the door to the back bedroom was ready to fall off its hinges. Since we used the room for a nursery, it didn’t bother us to just take the door off and store it in the basement. Our project was to fix the frame and re-hang the door.

In the interest of efficiency, my wife and I split the chores and the kids for the day. After packing the car with a few things that needed to go to the new house, Helen and Jessica, our five-year-old, were off.

The plan was to prepare the door frame on Saturday and hang the door the next day. Our job was to drill out the door Frame and install wooden pegs as a base for the door hinges. The drilling, measuring, and cutting was all going as planned. When it was time to install the wooden pegs, we realized we had a problem. We couldn’t get the pegs started into the holes we had drilled. As planned, the pegs and the holes were almost the same size. The pegs needed a taper on them before they would go into the holes.

You know how, when you know exactly what tool you need, you can just picture right where it is? I could clearly picture a file or sandpaper to taper the pegs. We looked in the closets, the kitchen drawers, the pantry, the toolbox in the basement. And yet, nothing.

I quickly ran through our options and found myself quite discouraged.

  • Calling Helen wasn’t an option. The phone had been transferred already and cell phones wouldn’t become popular for another ten years.
  • There was a hardware store down Brady Street, but I didn’t have my cane and didn’t think it would be wise to ask Rachel to guide me in that situation.
  • Just sitting around waiting for Helen and Jessica just didn’t seem like a good idea.

We were stuck. Before giving up completely, I thought I’d try one last thing. I explained to Rachel what I was trying to do and what I’d do if I had the right tools. When I asked her what she thought we should do, she immediately suggested we should scrape the pegs on the floor of the basement. She explained that when she ran and fell in the basement, she scraped some of the skin off her knee. Being a sunny day, we decided to test her advice on the concrete steps at the front of the house. Within a few minutes, we were back upstairs with a set of tapered pegs. The pegs fit in place just as planned and we hung the door the next day.

That was one of our first projects together, but not the last time Rachel gut us out of a jam. It was the start of the many adventures of Rachel and Dad.

Lessons learned

Better planning would have helped Rachel and I avoid running into problems: more tools, I could have brought my cane, etc. Unforeseen problems are often arise on any project. “The plan is nothing, planning is everything.” Rachel’s idea of scraping the pegs on a rough surface is what turned a failure into success. The real problem was the narrow perspective I brought to the situation.


Applying the lessons

A few questions I found myself reflecting on:

  • Who do I include as I conceptualize the outcomes I am seeking to achieve?
  • How do I ensure I am open to the (unexpected) wisdom of others?
  • How do I honor the contributions that come from unexpected individuals?
  • )What do I do to remind myself to expect the unexpected?



I had recently read a book called “A Whack on the Side of the Head” by Roger von Oech on the topic of creative thinking. One of the techniques von Oech suggests is, when stuck for fresh ideas, ask someone who has no knowledge of the topic for advice. The technique is called “Consult a Fool.”

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A storytelling opportunity


Be a part of a storytelling experience


You are invited to be a part of a storytelling experience that is taking place soon. Please read the description below, listen to the story, “A blind man’s first time alone on a ski lift,” and complete the information link to get more details as they are available.


“There’s a lot to be said for someone who can get up on stage and tell a personal story in front of a room full of strangers. It takes guts and confidence and a clear voice.” (Ex Fabula, 2021)

Everyone has a story. Your story is unique and, at the same time, may be just what someone else needs to hear. We are in the process of planning a storytelling workshop experience focusing on the inclusion of persons with disabilities, also including persons at the intersection of disability and the LGBTQ community. A guiding principle of the experience is, “We are all whole persons, no matter how we may be seen by others.”


Ex Fabula created the Equal Access project to enable more individuals with disabilities to tell their stories on Ex Fabula stages. This initiative not only celebrates individuals with disabilities as assets to the Milwaukee community, it also allows audience members to learn by hearing perspectives that are sometimes overlooked.

This is a collaboration between Mainstreaming on Main Street® and Ex Fabula. We are anticipating workshop experiences lasting from one to three hours. The workshops may be held in-person, virtually, or a mix of both depending on participant preferences.


If you are interested in participating in this storytelling experience please share your Contact information through the linked form by Friday, March 17. We will let you know more information about dates, times, and other details as they develop. For more information, contact Dan Lococo by email]( at



The Binary and the Yin Yang

A groundhog said six more weeks of winter. There is one other option but I don’t remember what it is. I am sharing a story of letting go of limiting decisions to just one or the other. I’ve found the gap in between polarized thinking to be much more rewarding. Students of Servant Leadership may find hints of Awareness, conceptualization, foresight, and community building in It is a quick read, with a little food for thought. Comments and sharing are always welcome.

In this post:


Story: The binary and the Yin and Yang

Mark Twain is attributed as saying, “When I was a boy of 14 my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21 I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years.” My Pa used to tell me, “Danny, everything isn’t either black or white.” I remember telling him, “There’s a lot less grey than you’d think.” I still find comfort in seeing things as a simple choice between two distinct options. It is so much easier than seeing things along a continuum between two extremes. The comfort of binary thinking is everything resolves to one way or the other. When in doubt, I can always consult my favorite decision genie: a quarter.

As an undergraduate student I studied business finance. I found great comfort in two measures of financial analysis: net present value (NPV) and internal rate of return (IRR). NPV returns a dollar amount representing the revenue and costs of a project over time. An NPV greater than zero is good, less than zero is bad. IRR returns a percentage figure that can be compared to the cost of capital. An IRR greater than the cost of capital is good, less than the cost of capital is bad. Similarly, Jack Welch, former head of General Electric, was a fan of ranking employees from best to worst and getting rid of the bottom 10% every year. Everything is simple. Everything is black and white. A profit maximizing organization ranks projects and people and ignores or eliminates those outside the relevant range. Both approaches, theoretically, lead to the best possible outcomes for organizations.

Over the course of many years I have gone through a phase of ignorance and (hopefully) a bit of learning. I was exposed to Eastern philosophy as a teenager. The Taoist principle of yin and yang has been especially durable over the years. Put simply, yin and yang point to ends of a continuum: top/bottom, day/night, good/evil, etc. Western thinking often focuses around the ends of the continuum of black or white, good or bad, male or female, As a result, options often resolve to binary choices. one goes to the mountains or the sea shore, Heaven or Hell, etc. In assessing projects to pursue or people to let go of, there is an assumption that all relevant data is being considered before a decision is made. This is sometimes referred to as the assumption of perfect information. Those things outside of the decision criteria are referred to as externalities: a convenient synonym for irrelevant.

I had the privilege of being a part of a recent conversation on the intersection of gender and religious engagement. The conversation was nuanced by the fact that the participants had experience with conservative Christian denominations and are also members of the transgender community. Neither the individuals’ personal beliefs nor their gender presentation conformed to the doctrine of the (three different) faith traditions they were raised in. This disconnect led all to reluctantly walk away from their faith traditions. It seemed there was an assumption that the religious doctrines represented perfect information and the individuals were externalities: a convenient synonym for irrelevant.

While waiting for the ski lift someone who had observed me coming down the hill called out to us, “It took me a minute to put things together. That’s the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen. You guys are awesome.” I appreciated the recognition that skiing while blind is a collaborative experience. Skiing and blindness might be considered to be mutually exclusive. Although skiing while blind is closer to the amazing end of many continuums, it is something I do, a part of who I am. I am grateful for the people who intentionally include blindness as a part of the downhill skiing experience.

As I am writing this I am listening to music in a language I do not know, from a place I do not know. The not knowing makes the music all the more interesting.

There are oranges, bananas, and apples ripening in my kitchen right now. Some days I think we should simplify our choices (or I should find a three-sided quarter). When my Pa was telling me that everything is not black or white, I think he wanted me to know that seeing things as black and white is a choice I was projecting onto the world around me. And, just as I came to realize my Pa was a lot smarter than I once thought, the space between the yin and the yang is much more interesting than just seeing apples and oranges.

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National coming out day 2022

October 11 is the day we celebrate national LGBT Coming Out day. At a time when members of the LGBT community, particularly children who identify as LGBTQ and/or transgender, seem to be under attack it is important for those of us who can, to step up and speak out.

I have been celebrating national LGBT Coming Out day publicly for many years because I feel it is important to own who I am, a bisexual male. As someone who presents as cis-gender, I could hide behind the assumptions made by others. I find a dishonesty in taking that road.

I have the privilege, and the honor, to regularly be in the presence of a group of young people who are members of the LGBTQIA community. I refer to them as my queer peers. We have made a safe space for ourselves where we show up as we are. I consider these people and that space to be a precious gift in my life. We have shared the most personal of details of our lives, the most boring of chatter, and everything in between. Conversations on the intersection of biology, sexuality, and gender take place without the clutter of judgmental voices. Our standard is, “If you do not know, ask.”

I am open about who I am. I am open about sharing who I am. I am not open to being attacked for who I am. I am not open to being told how I should be in the world. I take no responsibility for a lack of empathy in others.

I identify as queer, and I am proud of who I am. There was a time when people, often referred to as “conservatives,” stood for individual rights, less government regulation, and freedom of expression. I not only hold these values, but I also believe in celebrating the right of individuals to be who we are every day.


Equity is a function of leadership

This essay was written for National Disability Employment Awareness (NDEA) month, celebrated each October. The piece is based on my own research. All references to individual experiences are from direct conversations I have had with employers or persons with disabilities (PWD).

Comments and sharing are always welcome.

In this post:


Essay: Equity and Disability Employment Awareness: A Function of Leadership
By Dan Lococo, PhD

The U.S. Department of Labor celebrates October as National Disability Employment Awareness month (NDEA). The theme for 2022 is, “Disability: Part of the Equity Equation.” This year’s theme calls on employers to reflect on how persons with disabilities (PWD) inclusion is (or is not) a part of the equity equation.

It is estimated that less than 20% of employers include persons with disabilities as part of their labor force. A major reason 72.6% of employers cite for not including PWD is the belief that we are unable to perform the work of the company. In contrast, the primary reason 82.6% of employers contact the Job Accommodation Network (JAN) is to retain or hire a valued employee with a disability. JAN reports that 75% of disability accommodations cost less than $500, with 56% costing nothing. The disparity between the 82.6% of employers who reach out for assistance in retaining employees and the 20% of employers who include PWD is an opportunity for awareness and a focus on equity.

Disability accommodations take the form of such things as: making facilities accessible, job restructuring, and modifying policies. A key factor in the inclusion of PWD in professional settings is an organizational infrastructure that allows a PWD to be productive in the workplace. The nature of accommodations requires that organizational infrastructure align with the organization’s commitment to equity and inclusion. This can be done through intentionality or through positional authority.

Speaking with employers and persons with disabilities (PWD) provides insights into some of the ways organizational infrastructure impacts the inclusion of PWD in professional settings. Some examples of PWD inclusion:

  • A sales executive is told by the CEO that his multiple sclerosis (MS) will not be a barrier to his continued employment, followed by various accommodations including workspace and job redesign
  • An educator makes career choices based on the accessibility of various school buildings
  • A local municipality re-assigns workers to lighter duties, sometimes in other departments, rather than sending them home to collect disability compensation.
  • An employee seeks employment elsewhere after learning his supervisor does not see a path to inclusion through the organization’s bureaucracy
  • A supervisor does not offer a job to a qualified candidate after realizing he does not have the authority to adapt the current position description.

An important part of this equation is an understanding of the alignment between organizational infrastructure and the commitment to the inclusion of persons with disabilities. In the case of the CEO’s support of the sales executive, the CEO had the authority to ensure the appropriate accommodations would be made on a timely basis. In the case of the supervisor who did not feel he could extend an offer to a qualified job applicant, the Director of the organization’s Bureau of Equity & Inclusion noted that the organization’s employees are spread across several relatively independent divisions. Making an exception to a position description in one unit within a division could have problematic implications across the organization. In both cases, the organization’s commitment to equity and inclusion was a function of the ability of organizational infrastructure to respond to a call for inclusion.

Inclusion of persons with disabilities (PWD) involves an understanding of who has the authority to make appropriate decisions regarding the inclusion of PWD and ensuring that hiring authorities have access to those decision makers on a timely basis. Celebrating National Disability Employment Awareness (NDEA) month takes place each year in October. This year’s focus on disability as part of the equity equation calls on organizational leaders and hiring authorities to be aware of the intersection of organizational infrastructure and disability employment. This year’s theme for NDEA is a reminder that awareness can come from anywhere, equity is a function of leadership.


Dan Lococo is a facilitator and researcher focusing on the inclusion of persons with disabilities (PWD) in professional settings. His work is informed by the principles of Servant Leadership. You can learn more about him through his web page, and his work through Mainstreaming on Main Street® (MoMS).

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Wondering towards empathy

I recently found myself behind schedule and just a bit lost. The unexpected support of a stranger got me back on track. Was I the beneficiary of empathy, sympathy, or compassion? I leave that to the reader. The story is a quick read, with a little food for thought. Comments and sharing are always welcome.

In this post:


Story: Running into empathy

I recently went to Columbia/St. Mary’s hospital to bring my wife home after having her gallbladder removed. After getting off the bus at a busy intersection and crossing the street, I missed the turn that would lead me to the hospital entrance. The hospital complex takes up the majority of a city block and I found the many driveways surrounding the complex to be confusing. I was getting a bit anxious about losing my orientation and delaying Helen’s return home. As I walked, I was asked by a person who identified himself as being homeless if I had some money I could spare. I ignored his question and asked if he could help me find the entrance to the hospital. As we walked together I learned that Aaron’s relationship with a woman who was involved with drugs and sex work left him in a precarious housing situation. I also learned that Aaron didn’t really know where the main entrance to the hospital was. After an explore that took a few twists and turns, Aaron got me where I needed to go. Aaron laughed when I told the person at the front desk that Aaron was my body guard. I don’t think the person at the desk was impressed. Before we parted I gave Aaron the $5 I had in my pocket. I felt it was the least I could do for a person who stepped up to make a difference without question of the commitment being made or the benefit to be gained.

I could reason that our engagement was transactional rather than empathetic but that doesn’t speak to the subtlety of the encounter. I ignored Aaron’s request for money. Aaron responded to my request for help without question. Maybe he understood what it feels like to be lost. Maybe the fact that I was going to a hospital led Aaron to infer a sense of urgency in my request. He may have been sympathetic to an old, blind, guy who had lost his way. I don’t know. Conversely, I don’t usually give money to people on the street. Aaron had helped me out when I needed help. The $5 was just sitting around doing nothing. I easily imagined Aaron would find a good use for $5 sooner than I would.

Lessons learned

My initial engagement with Aaron was an exchange of needs we had at the moment. We didn’t spend any time evaluating who’s needs were greater or lesser. My need was more urgent but not necessary more important than Aaron’s. Aaron deferred to my need without knowing if his need would be addressed.

Emotion researchers generally define empathy as, “The ability to sense other people’s emotions, coupled with the ability to imagine what someone else might be thinking or feeling.” Based on this definition it seems that Aaron was practicing empathy while my engagement had a transactional odor to it. I like to think I was just sharing with a fellow traveller along the way.

Applying the lessons

Empathy or sympathy or compassion are often exhibited in response to a situation that serves as a trigger. Here are a few questions that came to me as I composed this essay:

  • What triggers me to engage with others in a selfless manner?
  • How do I empathetically engage while maintaining the dignity of others?
  • When am I acting out of empathy versus sympathy or simply engaging in transactional exchange?




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