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Democrats and Republicans Agree: Prioritize Jobs for People with Disabilities

two people with disabilities in front of voting booths. Text: National disability employment awareness month36 Governors and President Trump Make New Commitments on Jobs for People with Disabilities, Celebrate National Disability Employment Awareness Month

Washington D.C., Oct. 25 – October marks the 72nd celebration of National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). This year, people with disabilities and employers have clear reason to celebrate. More than 343,000 Americans with disabilities got new jobs last year, a fourfold improvement in job gains compared to the previous year.

To mark this celebration, President Donald J. Trump issued a statement affirming his Administration’s “support for all the employers who hire Americans with disabilities, providing opportunities for success. It is important that all our Nation’s job seekers and creators are both empowered and motivated to partake in our booming economy, and apply their unique talents and skills to the growing workforce.”

He added, “We recognize the achievements of Americans with disabilities whose contributions in the workforce help ensure the strength of our Nation. We also renew our commitment to creating an environment of opportunity for all Americans and educating people about disability employment issues.”

Expanding employment opportunities is nonpartisan, as both Democrats and Republicans are quick to recognize the abilities of what people with disabilities can accomplish. This year, 36 Governors have shown their support through public proclamations, executive orders and press statements. These include:

Governor State Link
Gov. Kay Ivey Alabama
Gov. Bill Walker Alaska
Gov. Doug Ducey Arizona
Gov. Asa Hutchinson Arkansas
Gov. Jerry Brown California
Gov. John Hickenlooper Colorado
Gov. John Carney Delaware
Gov. Nathan Deal Georgia
Gov. David Ige Hawaii
Gov. Bruce Rauner Illinois
Gov. Jeff Colyer Kansas
Gov. Matt Bevin Kentucky
Gov. John Bel Edwards Louisiana
Gov. Larry Hogan Maryland
Gov. Rick Snyder Michigan
Gov. Mark Dayton Minnesota
Gov. Phil Bryant Mississippi
Gov. Michael Parson Missouri
Gov. Steve Bullock Montana
Gov. Brian Sandoval Nevada
Gov. Christopher Sununu New Hampshire
Gov. Susana Martinez New Mexico
Gov. Andrew Cuomo New York
Gov. John Kasich Ohio
Gov. Kate Brown Oregon
Gov. Tom Wolf Pennsylvania
Gov. Henry McMaster South Carolina
Gov. Dennis Daugaard South Dakota
Gov. Bill Haslam Tennessee
Gov. Greg Abbott Texas
Gov. Ralph Northam Virginia
Gov. Jay Inslee Washington
Gov. Jim Justice West Virginia
Gov. Scott Walker Wisconsin
Gov. Matt Mead Wyoming

An annual celebration, NDEAM is dedicated to raising awareness about disability employment issues and celebrating the incredible contributions of people with disabilities. In total, there are more than 20 million working-age Americans living with some form of disability. That total includes people who are blind or deaf or have other visible conditions such as spinal cord injuries, as well as people with invisible disabilities including learning disabilities, mental health or Autism.

Of that number, 7,461,001 have jobs. Nationally, the disability employment rate is 35.9 percent. However, people with disability are twice as likely to have jobs in some states versus others. For example, in North Dakota, more than half of its citizens with disabilities have jobs. Other states with high employment rates for people with disabilities include South Dakota (51.5 percent), Minnesota (48 percent), Alaska (47.9 percent) and Nebraska (47.4 percent). By contrast, barely one-in-four people with disabilities living in states like West Virginia, Alabama and Mississippi have jobs.

“Our nation was founded on the principle that anyone who works hard should be able to get ahead in life,” said Steve Bartlett, the chair of RespectAbility. Bartlett, a former U.S. Congressman, the former Mayor of Dallas and a principal author of the Americans with Disabilities Act continued, “People with disabilities deserve equal opportunity to earn an income and achieve independence just like anyone else.”

When people with disabilities are given access to the workforce, both the individual and the employers benefit. People with disabilities can bring new talents and ways of thinking to the table. In addition, they are more likely to be loyal to a company once they are hired. Companies such as JP Morgan Chase, Coca-Cola, UPSIBMStarbucks and Walgreens practice inclusive hiring and have had great success. As an employer, it is important to consider these talents and advantages when hiring workers.

“People with disabilities bring unique characteristics and talents to our country’s economy,” said Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, President of RespectAbility. “People with disabilities can work in hospitals and hotels, or apply their talents to develop computer software and website design. There are no limits to what they can do.”

The impact of employees with disabilities is well documented and include: higher retention rates, productivity levels, lower absenteeism and lower injury rates. Last year, more than 343,000 people with disabilities entered the nation’s workforce – a 4-fold increase over the previous year. As noted by the Council of Economic Advisors, “no group has felt the benefits of accelerated economic growth more than Americans with a disability.”

“The disability community is the only minority anyone can join at any time due to accident, illness or injury,” Bartlett added. “According to data compiled by the Workplace Initiative, fully 20 percent of workers will experience a disability lasting a year or more during their professional lives, a rate that accelerates as workers age.”

Nearly a third of U.S. families have at least one member with a disability and 10 percent have at least one child with a disability, he added.

Throughout the month of October, RespectAbility and other disability groups will be celebrating the accomplishments of employees with disabilities and inclusive employers. Likewise, RespectAbility also is working with state Governors on proclamations and events that showcase cost-effective programs impacting people with disabilities at the state level. You can find more about their work on their website at

Meet the Author

Lauren Appelbaum

Lauren Appelbaum is the VP, Communications and Entertainment & News Media, of RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities so all people with disabilities can fully participate in every aspect of community. As an individual with an acquired nonvisible disability – Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy – she works at the intersection of disability, employment, Hollywood and politics. She regularly conducts trainings on the why and how to be more inclusive and accessible for entertainment executives throughout the industry. Appelbaum partners with studios, production companies and writers’ rooms to create equitable and accessible opportunities to increase the number of people with lived disability experience throughout the overall story-telling process. These initiatives increase diverse and authentic representation of disabled people on screen, leading to systemic change in how society views and values people with disabilities. She has consulted on more than 100 TV episodes and films with A&E, Bunim-Murray Productions, NBCUniversal, Netflix, ViacomCBS, and The Walt Disney Company, among others. She represents RespectAbility on the CAA Full Story Initiative Advisory Council, Disney+ Content Advisory Council, MTV Entertainment Group Culture Code and Sundance Institute’s Allied Organization Initiative. She is the author of The Hollywood Disability Inclusion Toolkit and the creator of an innovative Lab Program for entertainment professionals with disabilities working in development, production and post-production. She is a recipient of the 2020 Roddenberry Foundation Impact Award for this Lab. To reach her, email [email protected]

6 comments… add one
  • Dr. Maxine Schumack PSY.D. Oct 11, 2018, 8:47 pm

    My comment is about why isn’t there more public service announcements in October given to Disability Awareness Month just like there is for Breast Cancer, and for African Americans and Hispanic Cultures.? Someone needs to put something in the Media, ABC, NBC, CBS, etc. Thank you.
    Dr. Maxine Schumack,Psy.D

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