Washington, D.C., Oct. 15 – Gov. Doug Ducey has declared October 2018 Disability Employment Awareness Month in Arizona.
“Arizona workplaces welcoming of the talents of all residents including individuals with disabilities, are part of a critical parts of our efforts to encourage a diverse community and rigorous economy,” writes Gov. Ducey. “Arizona prospers when an integrated workforce includes people with and without disabilities working side by side earning competitive wages and benefits. Businesses and organizations that hire, retain, and promote people with disabilities continue to discover that a strong workforce is an inclusive workforce. The perspective and creativity of people with disabilities benefit employers who acknowledge each person’s unique strengths and talents.”
This proclamation follows an outstanding year of job growth which saw 7,266 Arizonans with disabilities get new jobs.
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. There are 432,087 working-age Arizonans living with some form of disabilities. 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, 150,434 have jobs. The Copper State now has a 34.8 percent disability employment rate. According to RespectAbility, a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that works to fight stigmas and advance opportunities for people with disabilities, Arizona ranks 33rd compared to the rest of the country. It is great news for the state that disability employment has increased, and this month presents the 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.”
To map out growth and progress, Arizona should expand and replicate programs like Project SEARCH, a program for high school students with disabilities the chance to gain job experience in key career fields such as healthcare, finance, government, retail and hospitality. David Morales, a graduate of the program, is now a transporter at the University of Arizona Medical Center South Campus. The Sonoran University Center for Excellence in Disabilities administers the program Morales participated in. The goal of the program is to work with local businesses and community members with disabilities. They provide employers access to a talented yet underappreciated sector of the workforce while giving people with disabilities training that leads to marketable skills and long-term employment. Morales’ success was so great that he became a valued member of the team and was offered full-time employment.
As Morales and Project SEARCH show, 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 Arizona’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 Laura Haney, Emily Kranking, and Stephanie Farfan.