Washington, D.C., Oct. 12 – Gov. Kay Ivey has officially proclaimed October as Disability Employment Awareness Month in Alabama.
“Alabamians with disabilities continue to make significant contributions to the economy of this state,” said Ivey in the proclamation. She also noted that people with disabilities “have performed successfully at every level of business and government, demonstrating their ability to play an integral role in our society.”
“The support and cooperation of all people are needed to reduce the attitudinal and physical barriers that hinder full acceptance of people with disabilities and their rightful place in employment,” Ivey added.
This proclamation follows a challenging economic year that saw 5,531 Alabamians with disabilities lose their jobs this past year.
Meanwhile, President Trump issued a statement saying that his Administration “reaffirms its 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.”
An annual celebration, National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) is dedicated to raising awareness about disability employment issues and celebrating the incredible contributions of people with disabilities.
In Alabama, there are 421,135 working-age people living with disabilities. That 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, 115,799 have jobs. According to RespectAbility, a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that works to fight stigmas and advance opportunities for people with disabilities, Alabama ranks 49th compared to the rest of the country. With only 27.5 percent of its people with disabilities employed, NDEAM offers a new opportunity for Alabama.
“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 went on to say, “People with disabilities deserve equal opportunity to earn an income and achieve independence just like anyone else.”
On Oct. 25, Gov. Ivey will host the second annual Governor’s Job Fair for People with Disabilities. The fair is part of Gov. Ivey’s promise to make equal opportunity in employment for people with disabilities a priority. Making sure the event is well publicized to potential employers could help get more people with disabilities employed.
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, UPS, IBM, Starbucks 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 Alabama’s economy,” adds Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, President of RespectAbility. “They 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.”
Additional research and writing credit go to Heidi Wangelin, Emily Kranking, and Stephanie Farfan.