Washington, D.C., Oct. 18 – Gov. Bill Walker proclaimed October 1-7, 2018 to be Alaska Employ People with Disabilities Week.
“During the first week of October, the State of Alaska celebrates and recognizes the talents of individuals with disabilities in the workplace and promotes raising awareness about disability employment opportunities as well as challenges,” writes Walker in the proclamation. “Competitive and integrated employment provides individuals with a sense of pride, financial security, stable living conditions, access to better health management, and increased independence.”
This commitment from the governor comes at a time when jobs for people with disabilities have been increasing in the state of Alaska. Last year, 4,139 Alaskans with disabilities gained jobs.
Activities throughout the week should reflect the message that people with and without disabilities share the same workplace goals and values. Walker encourages Alaskans to celebrate workers with disabilities with appropriate programs and activities throughout the week that encourage employers to hire people with disabilities.
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.”
In total, there are 50,330 working-age people living with disabilities in Alaska. 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.
Among them, 24,090, or 47.9 percent have jobs. According to RespectAbility, a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that works to fight stigmas and advance opportunities for people with disabilities, Alaska ranks 4th compared to the rest of the country. It is great news for the state that employment has risen, and this gesture to raise awareness marks an opportunity for even more growth.
“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.”
Walker has done much to make Alaska such a great place for people with disabilities to live and work. When people with disabilities are given access to the workforce, both the individual and the employers benefit. Companies such as JP Morgan Chase, Coca-Cola, Walgreens, UPS, IBM and Starbucks practice inclusive hiring and have had great success. 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. As an employer, it is important to consider these talents and advantages when hiring workers.
“People with disabilities bring unique characteristics and talents to Alaska’s economy,” adds 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.”
Additional research and writing credit go to Heidi Wangelin, Emily Kranking, and Stephanie Farfan.