Twenty-five years after the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act, are people with disabilities fully included in American Society? There are more than 800,000 people in the Chicago region with disabilities, representing a largely untapped talent pool and a large consumer market. Employers are seeking new strategies to engage this diverse workforce, but the employment gap is stunning — only 35 percent of Illinoisans with disabilities are employed, compared with 75 percent of the general population.

This year, under an initiative entitled ADA 25 Chicago, civic leaders and public officials are coming together to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the ADA by seeking new solutions to fulfill the ADA’s promise of economic self-sufficiency and full participation.

Leaders of this initiative, Steve Pemberton, vice president and global chief diversity officer at Walgreens Boots Alliance, and Karen Tamley, commissioner of the City of Chicago Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities, will lead a discussion about how inclusion of people with disabilities in the workplace, supply chain and marketplace can be a competitive advantage for Chicago. Kareem Dale, director and senior counsel with Discover Financial Services in Chicago, will moderate this dynamic panel discussion.


Kareem Dale
Director & Senior Counsel, Discover Financial Services

Kareem Dale, a blind Chicago-native, graduated cum laude with his JD/MBA from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and has since become a successful lawyer, currently serving as director and senior counsel with Discover Financial Services in Chicago.

In 2009, he was appointed by President Obama as a special assistant to the President for disability policy, the highest-ranking position on disability ever to be created by a President. While working in the White House, he also led outreach and engagement to the legal community, including coordinating outreach for the appointment and nomination for two U.S. Supreme Court Justices as well as numerous federal appellate and district court judges. Before joining the Obama Administration, he was the managing partner of The Dale Law Group where his practice focused on commercial litigation, personal injury and real estate.

Mr. Dale has also been active in community service. He is a member of the ADA 25 Steering Committee and currently serves on the board of directors for Access Living in Chicago. Mr. Dale also served as the past president of the board of directors for the Black Ensemble Theater in Chicago. He was recognized in the November-December 2001 issue of Ebony magazine as one of the 30 Leaders of the Future under 30.

Steve Pemberton
Vice President of Diversity & Inclusion, Walgreens Boots Alliance

Steve Pemberton is vice president of diversity and inclusion for Walgreens Boots Alliance, the first global pharmacy-led, health and wellbeing enterprise in the world, employing 370,000 people in 25 countries. Prior to that he served as chief diversity officer for Walgreens, becoming the first person to hold that position in the company’s 114 year history. He is widely considered a subject matter expert on matters of diversity and inclusion and its importance to the sustainability of organizations and the communities they serve.

Under Mr. Pemberton’s leadership, Walgreens reached record levels of performance on nearly every measure of diversity and inclusion from representation to supplier diversity spend. An extended part of his responsibilities has been to serve as a public ambassador for the company on matters of employing people with disabilities. In that capacity, he has frequently represented Walgreens’ employment model at the White House and on Capitol Hill. In 2015, he was appointed by United States Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez to serve on an Advisory Committee for the Competitive Integrated Employment of People with Disabilities.

One of America’s most inspiring executives, he brings a deep personal understanding of human differences and the human experience to his position. Mr. Pemberton was a ward of the state for much of his childhood, an experience he chronicled in his 2012 best-selling memoir, A Chance in the World. Mr. Pemberton’s extraordinary life journey, featured in People Magazine, has been translated into multiple languages and continues to inspire audiences across the world; his tireless advocacy for the disenfranchised has earned him national recognition from The Trumpet Foundation to the Congressional Award Gold Medal. His dedication to public service and personal and professional achievement have also earned him honorary doctorates from Winston-Salem State University (2014) and Boston College (2015).

Karen Tamley
Commissioner, Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities

Karen Tamley was named commissioner of the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities (MOPD) in March of 2005 by Richard M. Daley and reppointed by Mayor Rahm Emaunel in May of 2011. MOPD promotes full inclusion of people with all types of disabilities and strives to make Chicago the most accessible city in the nation.

In her role as commissioner, Ms. Tamley leads numerous disability policy and accessibility compliance initiatives in key areas such as transportation, city infrastructure, emergency preparedness, housing, schools and technology. She also oversees the delivery of independent living services such as in-home supports, home accessibility modifications, amplified phones, and employment readiness to thousands of Chicagoans with disabilities. Commissioner Tamley serves as the City’s representative regarding disability related policy on a number of boards and committees, including the Pace Board of Directors, the region’s Paratransit service provider.

Under Commissioner Tamley’s leadership, Chicago received the Accessible America Award from the National Organization on Disability and for two years, MOPD was named “Best Government Department” by the Deaf Illinois.