The Bottom Line of Disabilities: The Social, Financial and Economic Impact in our Communities

May 29, 2014

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In a previous notice, [Cumberland Advisors] described the July 11, 2014, Rocky Mountain Economic Summit in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. [I] hope clients, professionals, referring consultants, and other readers plan to attend. The following Monday in Salt Lake City, Utah, there will be a very special meeting that the Global Interdependence Center (GIC) has undertaken in conjunction with the Columbus Community Center ( and the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development ( This is one of those unusual events that requires a description and that may be of serious interest to some of you who read our commentaries.

The half-day meeting in Salt Lake City will address policies, opportunities, and structures involving dignity through work for individuals with disabilities. The numbers are staggering: according to U.S. Census data, one in five individuals has a disability, and one in 11 adults is unemployed due to a disability. These individuals are under-represented and under-reported in the labor market, though this demographic is being viewed by some as the world’s largest emerging market. There will be special sessions that focus on wounded warriors and veterans’ affairs. Other sessions will deal with emerging programmatic approaches by which individuals with autism can find employment and benefits in high-tech industries. Best practices for improving employment outcomes for individuals with disabilities will also be a subject of discussion. Tours of the Columbus facility will be available. I have taken such a tour and found it both moving and motivating in the context of considering policy options.

I learned of the Columbus Community Center many years ago when a supporter and current GIC member, Allison Smoot, now of UBS in Salt Lake City, introduced me to the facility. She asked if I could help with a fundraising event. Subsequently, I became a supporter and contributor. Then, after the unfortunate death of Cumberland Advisors’ Managing Director and Portfolio Manager Peter Demirali, [Cumberland Advisors] initiated a scholarship at Columbus in his memory. That scholarship fund is now providing assistance to young adults with disabilities who have few options for vocational opportunities in the public and private sectors.

Many organizations in both the private and public sectors have business partnerships with Columbus, which in turn create meaningful employment opportunities – and a paycheck – for individuals with disabilities. Through these kinds of programmatic, collaborative approaches, Columbus provides an example of how a complex interdependence in a community can diminish the burdens and obstacles faced by society, families, individuals, and local, state, and federal governments.

Columbus has been recognized regionally and nationally for nearly five decades as an innovator in the field of disability services. It is recognized as one of the premier organizations in the US that focuses on the issue of employment and disabilities. The GIC periodically chooses economically related or healthcare-oriented issues and hosts or co-hosts a discussion of the same. For example, other meetings have focused on topics such as SARS and avian influenza.

The program outline for the July 14 meeting in Salt Lake City is [at]. Many people will attend the July 11 Rocky Mountain Economics Summit in Jackson Hole and then travel to Salt Lake City for the Monday morning session at the Columbus. We plan to do just that and are privileged to be part of the program in both places.


The preceding has been reposted with permission of the author. The original commentary is available at

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