Washington D.C., Oct. 4 – Gov. Bruce Rauner has declared October as Disability Employment Awareness Month in Illinois.
“This year’s theme America’s Workforce: Empowering All is accordant with the State of Illinois’ dedication to improving the lives of all Illinoisans by employing skilled individuals of all ability levels,” Rauner states.
Throughout this month, Rauner’s objective is to encourage people with disabilities to accomplish their goals of employment with perseverance. Additionally, employers are invited to consider their options when they hire people with disabilities and use their creativity to come up with solutions about accommodations and jobs.
“Workplaces welcoming of the talents of all people, including people with disabilities, are a critical part of our efforts to build an inclusive community and strong economy,” Rauner adds.
This proclamation follows a great year of job growth among people with disabilities living in the Prairie State. 9,550 people with disabilities entered Illinois’ 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 679,000 working-age people with disabilities living with disabilities in Illinois. 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, 242,783 have jobs. That means that Illinois has a 35.7 percent disability employment rate. According to RespectAbility, a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that works to fight stigmas and advance opportunities for people with disabilities, Illinois ranks 30th compared to the rest of the country.
“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 Illinois’ 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.”
GROWMARK Inc., a national agricultural company founded in Illinois, will take part in National Disability Employment Month.
“A culture of inclusion helps all employees be more engaged in their work and drives innovation,” Jim Spradlin, CEO of GROWMARK, announced, “which leads to superior customer service and top performance.”
Kristen Kubsch, the Affirmative Action/Equal Employment Opportunities Analyst, adds, “We want to spread the important message that we value all perspectives, including those of individuals with disabilities.”
Month-long activities include weekly e-mails that have tips & facts on how to build an accessible environment and volunteer opportunities with companies that serve people of disabilities.
Additional research and writing credit go to Heidi Wangelin, Laura Haney, and Stephanie Farfan.