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No Pity: Employment Advice for People with Disabilities

Learning from the Office of Personnel Management’s Michael Murray

Michael Murray with Fellows sitting and standing around him

Michael Murray with RespectAbility Fellows and Staff

Rockville, Md., Aug. 2 – “My father was a great father not in spite of his disability but in part because of his disability.”

Michael Murray’s involvement in the disability community stems from his personal and unforgettable childhood experiences. After sharing a touching story about his memories with his father, as well as revealing his own confrontation with a disability, Murray told the fellows: “My disability, although it came with struggles, brought value into my life.”

Since then, he has become a committed and respected advocate for people with disabilities.

Murray and Policy Fellow, Ana Song doing funny poses and reaching their hands together like they are about to do a high five. Ana is and Murray are smiling.

Michael Murray and Fellow Ana Song

As the Senior Advisor to the Director of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion (ODI) at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM), Murray’s work has been specifically geared toward increasing federal employment of people with disabilities. Through his leadership, Murray led the federal government to successfully exceed historic records for the employment of people with disabilities.

As an individual with electrifying charisma and enthusiasm, Murray highlighted some key points about disability employment during his time with the Fellows at RespectAbility.

Law Requirement

Federal employers must hire people with disabilities, in compliance with federal law. These requirements set a solid foundation for the opportunity for people with disabilities to obtain employment, but this is only a beginning. Murray said we must continue to fight the barriers to employment for people with disabilities both at the forefront and behind-the-scenes.

Good Will

Michael Murray sitting at teh head of the conference room table talking with a kind face to the RespectAbility fellows.

Michael Murray speaking to RespectAbility Fellows

Giving people with disabilities the opportunity for employment is very important, but the intentions behind the hiring process also must be examined.

“Pity is one of the most dangerous things for the disability community,” Murray said. “It removes the value of the work and contribution of the person.”

Murray said we must be aware of the potential for a “glass ceiling” that may give people with disabilities jobs at the expense of disqualifying their contributions. To this, Murray exclaimed, “No Pity!”

Diversity and Creativity

“Increasing diversity in the workspace with people with disabilities causes innovation and creativity,” Murray said.

People with disabilities can offer unique perspectives in the workplace. When we include disability, Murray said we can “build systems and structures to capitalize diversity in the federal government” using systematic structures within our country.

Marisela is on the left smiling and doing a cute pose. Judith is in th middle with a big smile and also leaning to the right. Murray is on the right and has his back to the girls but is leaning backward in a silly pose.

Murray has an awesome energy that really rubbed off onto the Fellows

Some examples that Murray cited were text messaging, originally intended for deaf people but led to a revolution of communication and automatic doors, developed for wheelchair accessibility but increased revenue and consumer traffic for stores.

After giving further advice about how people with disabilities can approach employers, Murray left us with his central advice: “If we bring our uniqueness to the table, we can see change on an individualized level… always think, not in spite of my disability, but, in part, because of my disability.”


RespectAbility is a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for and with people with disabilities. Learn more about the National Leadership Program and apply for the next cohort! Contact [email protected] for more information.



Meet the Author

Ana Song

Ana (Hee Jae) Song is a Policy Fellow. She is a rising senior at Villanova University. After being diagnosed with bipolar disorder, her experience sparked a commitment for promoting education about mental health to end stigmas and inform people about psychological disorders.

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