The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) commemorated National Disability Employment Awareness Month with the help of a guest speaker who shielded herself and her disability in her youth before evolving into the first openly autistic attorney ever to be admitted to the Florida Bar.
In addition to her legal work, Haley Moss is an accomplished author, artist and disability rights advocate. She began the discussion at a virtual event hosted by the SEC’s Disability Interests Advisory Committee by explaining why she chose her current career path.
As a child, Moss practiced art to escape from difficult social situations. She would only tell doctors, family members and close friends about her disability on a need-to-know basis. However, this approach quickly changed when 13-year-old Moss was asked to speak at a conference about her disability and was later approached to write her first book. In college, she discovered her passion for disability advocacy and decided that becoming a lawyer would allow her to advocate for others. “I didn’t think my disability was the thing I would spend my life talking about,” she said. “I figured out later it was my calling. I realized how much weight my story carries and that I had the ability to help other people.”
I didn’t think my disability was the thing I would spend my life talking about. I figured out later it was my calling. I realized how much weight my story carries and that I had the ability to help other people.
-Haley Moss, Disability Advocate
The conversation shifted to Moss’s admiration for her parents and how influential they were in her success throughout school. Her parents were always supportive of her various interests and allowed her to be herself. Moss described the importance of parents supporting their children with disabilities and believed they should openly talk with their children about their disabilities and teach them how to advocate for themselves. Conversations about disabilities must be understandable to a child and should not focus on weaknesses or struggles.
Moss also discussed the practices that companies can implement to best support employees with disabilities. She explained that employees do not disclose their disabilities for a variety of reasons, especially since reporting can result in invasive questions. The goal of self-identification in the workplace is to ensure support and safety to those who choose to report their disabilities, instead of pressuring all employees to self-identify. Companies must create a culture where employees feel safe to identify their disabilities, she said. This objective can be achieved by providing accommodations to better serve employees’ needs, such as allowing them to work from home or including closed captions and an interpreter during meetings. In addition to creating a positive environment for everyone, Moss encouraged managers to change their hiring practices and remove their personal biases when choosing candidates.
Following the Q&A with the audience, Commissioner Mark Uyeda presented Moss with a certificate of appreciation for her leadership and advocacy on neurodiversity in the workplace. Commissioner Caroline Crenshaw concluded the event with closing remarks on the importance and future of disability advocacy at the SEC.
Modified: April 6, 2023