ICS Named Leading Disability Employer for Second Year

Independence Care System (ICS) has been recognized as a 2022 Leading Disability Employer by the National Organization on Disability (NOD), marking the second year in a row the organization has received the designation.
Leading Disability Employer

ICS is once again the recipient of NOD’s Leading Disability Employer Seal, which recognizes ICS for measuring and achieving strong talent outcomes for employees with disabilities as well as its commitment to building a disability-inclusive workforce by adopting exemplary employment practices for people with disabilities, tracking efforts to measure impact, and maintaining a comprehensive disability strategy with policies, procedures, and resources. NOD is a private, non-profit organization that promotes the full participation and contributions of America’s 57 million people with disabilities in all aspects of life, and acknowledged ICS for its culture, policies and practices, and its talent sourcing.

ICS honored by NOD designation

ICS staff and members were thrilled to learn of NOD’s designation. ICS President and CEO Regina Martinez-Estela said it is a tremendous honor for ICS to receive the recognition for a second year in a row, and explained that from the day the organization opened its doors, ICS has hired people with disabilities, understanding that representation matters. ICS has learned from their real life experiences to determine how to best serve the community of New Yorkers with disabilities, and to build on ICS’ reputation as a caring, supportive space where staff and members can flourish and grow.  

“It’s about striving to improve and be better,” Regina said. “We want our members to live independently. Employment is integral to achieving independence. You create opportunities, you look to accommodate, and work to figure out how to make this a better workplace for people with disabilities. Financial security is important—the gateway to that is employment.”

Regina also highlighted the organization’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, and the importance of listening and responding to the needs of staff.  

“When you feel you belong somewhere, you know that’s the place for you,” Regina said. “That’s part of the culture we try to create. If we are to address equity in this nation, we must open our workplaces to everyone and accommodate the needs of individuals so they can succeed. Research shows that diversity and inclusion lead to higher performing and stronger organizations. We are all better off when we accommodate the needs of people with disabilities in the workplace.”

ICS Vice President of Human Resources Catherine Barufaldi echoed those sentiments, emphasizing that shared communication has been key in creating a workplace that supports the professional goals of people with disabilities and reflects ICS’ mission and values.

“We’re better able to be inclusive because our colleagues with disabilities are willing to share their perspectives and insights,” Catherine said.  

ICS staff excited about NOD honor

ICS staff, including ICS Outreach Associate and member Christy Cruz–Cullins, who has been employed at ICS for 11 years, celebrated the recognition. Christy, who said that people with disabilities are too often invisible or seen as liabilities, expressed how meaningful the designation is, saying it is a testament to ICS’ commitment to being an inclusive, nurturing organization that supports people with disabilities.

Christy said her life changed when ICS’ past Senior Vice President of Advocacy and Women’s Health, and disability rights advocate, Marilyn Saviola reached out about launching the ICS Women’s Health Access Program. Marilyn needed a volunteer to translate to a Spanish-speaking group.

“I thought it’d be for a few months. Now it’s 2022,” Christy said. “Staff with disabilities are a mirror image of those who we assist every day. When you’ve entered the doors of ICS, you’re an individual.”

Independent Living Associate Madeline DeAddio, an ICS member since 2014 who has a spinal cord injury, praised ICS for its inclusive community and its practices that go the distance in supporting people with disabilities. Madeline described working for the Independent Living Program as rewarding, allowing her to build bonds with members and mentor them on employment and disability, among other areas.

Prior to her injury, Madeline was always employed. She was unaware that she could return to the workforce with a disability, and was afraid of losing important benefits.

“But once I became an ICS member and learned you could work, I wanted to connect with the disability community and give back,” she said. “I’m proud to be employed by an organization that’s absolutely wonderful.”

ICS continues its mission

As ICS moves forward, staff hope the organization can continue to expand on employment opportunities for people with disabilities, including leadership opportunities at the organization.

While the Leading Disability Employer is an honor, the organization plans to continue to grow in the area. Leaders agreed that it’s not only important for ICS, but for organizations across the country, to do more to ensure opportunities exist for people with disabilities.

“Being consistent in practice and policy is key,” Regina said. “It is a huge honor for us to be designated as a Leading Disability Employer. Though more needs to be done to support employment opportunities for people with disabilities, all of us at ICS take great pride in striving to improve our community, culture and a workplace that acknowledges and values people with disabilities. It’s a shared experience, and we’re moving through it together.”

Christopher Engelhardt

Christopher Engelhardt

Communications Specialist