As a champion for equality for people with disabilities, Je Suis Charlie too. The terrorist attacks were aimed at freedom, liberty and equality. They harm us all. Humanity is like a tapestry with many different colored and textured threads. Woven together, we can keep each other warm, beautiful and safe. Torn apart we are nothing more than tiny bits of threads and scrap. The world is a better place when ALL people are respected for the gifts they have.
The work we do at RespectAbility is not fighting against terrorists – but it is fighting for the very VALUES they are trying to destroy. Every human being must be valued. For that to happen, every person must count – literally. What do I mean, and how does this apply to our work? This past week many celebrated that the unemployment rate in America went down to 5.6%. However, most people with disabilities who are working age were not counted in those numbers at all! That is because the government only counts people who are actively looking for work, and many people with disabilities, facing low expectations and harsh stigmas, have given up. So we have spent months simply counting.
Where are the people with disabilities who are working age and don’t have access to work and the independence, friendships and dignity it provides? We can’t fix a problem until we identify it. For example, in the state of New York 73.3% of persons without disabilities aged 18 to 64 are employed. However, only 32.2% of New Yorkers with disabilities aged 18 to 64 are employed. In New York 68,800 teens and young adults aged 16 to 20 have a disability and 997,500 persons aged 21 to 64 have a disability. Fully 601,407 people ages 18-64 received SSDI or SSI benefits in the year 2012. In 2012, the total expenditure on SSDI benefits in New York for people with disabilities was $8,018,808,000. However, for all these big numbers, Vocational Rehabilitation only obtained 12,386 jobs for people with disabilities in NY in 2012.
That is obviously not the kind of success we want to see. And every number is a human being – like the person with a disability who wrote me from New York last week from to let me know that he finally got a job and a reason to get up in the morning. And he’s doing a good job!
Tomorrow we have an important webinar on “Implementing the Workforce Investment and Opportunity Act (WIOA) and the National Governors Association’s Better Bottom Line: Employing People with Disabilities: Lessons from the Front Line. The speaker is the outstanding Rita Landgraf. It’s 1:30 Eastern Time.
At 6 PM we also are doing a focus group on inclusion of people with disabilities in the Jewish community. Please let me know if you want to watch from online so we can send you the link. At 7:30 PM we will be cosponsors for a community event at Adas Israel in Washington, D.C. to stand with those who care about the recent atrocities in France and around the world. All of these things are free.
No matter what your interests, I hope you will be engaged with us in some way tomorrow. Meanwhile, I hope that you will be inspired by the wonderful gathering of more than 1 million people in France, including 40 world leaders, who are taking a stand for a better future.
Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi
- Disability and Job Data By State: https://www.respectability.org/resources/Policy-Makers/
- RespectAbility’s Disability Employment First Planning Tool: Download the PDF. Download the Word document.