Washington, D.C., Oct. 12 – Gov. David Ige has proclaimed October 2018 to be Disability Employment Awareness Month in Hawai’i.
“People with disabilities are productive and loyal, and deserve the same opportunity to earn an income and achieve independence like anyone else,” writes Gov. Ige in the proclamation. “The State of Hawai’i has a vested interest in increasing the inclusion of people living with a disability by providing access, meaningful services, and improved outcomes for all citizens at the state, county, local, and private sector levels.”
This commitment from the governor comes at a time when jobs for people with disabilities have been increasing in the state of Hawai’i. Last year, 750 Hawaiians with disabilities gained jobs.
Activities throughout the month should reflect the message that people with and without disabilities share the same workplace goals and values. On Oct. 30, the state legislature will be cosponsoring a reverse employment fair that sets people up for entry level jobs while celebrating success stories.
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 total, there are 66,031 working-age people living with disabilities in Hawai’i. 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, 26,356, or 39.9 percent have jobs. According to RespectAbility, a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that works to fight stigmas and advance opportunities for people with disabilities, Hawai’i ranks 18th compared to the rest of the country. It is great news for the state that employment has risen, 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 went on to say, “People with disabilities deserve equal opportunity to earn an income and achieve independence just like anyone else.”
Since his election in 2014, Gov. Ige has been committed to helping people with disabilities get jobs. Last October, Gov. David Ige allocated the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations (DLIR) $2.5 million so DLIR can invest it in youth disability workforce development. In Summer 2016, Ige hired 223 young people of disabilities in temporary government jobs.
Additionally, “through the Employment First State Leadership Mentoring Program, Hawai‘i has developed an inter-agency policy for employment of individuals with disabilities,” the proclamation states. This commitment has supported collaborative partnerships among the City & County of Honolulu American Job Center, State Department of Education, Department of Health Adult Mental Health Division and many more.
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 Hawaii’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.