Washington D.C., Oct. 4 – Gov. Asa Hutchinson has declared October as Disability Employment Awareness Month in Arkansas.
“In workplaces all across Arkansas and the United States, talented employees are vital to ensure the success of various corporations, government entities, and private sector organizations,” Hutchinson stated.
Hutchinson invites employers to consider their options when they hire people with disabilities and use their creativity to come up with solutions. By hiring people with disabilities, they are building up the flow of produced work. Like people without disabilities, people with disabilities have special talents that they can contribute to the company.
“People with disabilities offer a wide range of expertise and play an integral role in our efforts to build an inclusive community and strong economy,” Hutchinson adds.
This proclamation follows a solid year of job growth among people with disabilities living in the Natural State. 4,071 people with disabilities entered Arkansas’ workforce last 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 is dedicated to raising awareness about disability employment issues and celebrating the incredible contributions of people with disabilities. In total, there are more than 269,000 working-age people with disabilities living in Arkansas. 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, 85,447 have jobs. That means Arkansas has a disability employment rate of 31.7 percent. According to RespectAbility, a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that works to fight stigmas and advance opportunities for people with disabilities, Arkansas ranks 43rd in the nation on jobs for people with disabilities.
“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.”
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 Arkansas’ 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.”
University of Arkansas will offer information sessions throughout this month. On Oct. 1, they offered an introductory informational session about disability etiquette and sensitivity overload. On Oct. 24 at 9:00-10:30a.m. and 1:00-2:30p.m., the university also will host panels on assistive technology and accommodations. During the panels, they will demonstrate various technologies and go through case studies on how they make a difference with students.
Additional research and writing credit go to Heidi Wangelin, Emily Kranking, and Stephanie Farfan.