Washington D.C., Oct. 30 – Governor Matt Bevin has declared October as National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) in Kentucky.
“National Disability Employment Awareness Month recognizes the contribution people with disabilities add to our society as well as the value and talent they add to our workplaces,” writes Bevin in his proclamation. “Workplaces, welcoming the talents of…people with disabilities, are a critical part of building an inclusive community and strong economy.”
The Proclamation also highlights other state efforts to support and empower Kentuckians with disabilities. Bevin called attention to the impactful work of Kentucky’s Office of Vocational Rehabilitation that has “played a critical role in serving individuals with significant disabilities since….1910” and the recent work done by the Work Matters Task Force launched in 2016 “to address barriers to employment.”
This proclamation follows a tremendous year of job growth for Kentuckians with disabilities who got 18,349 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. The 2018 theme is America’s Workforce: Empowering All.
In total, there are 439,748 working-age Kentuckians with 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.
Among them, 133,926 have jobs. However, serious more work needs to be done because Kentucky ranks 46th compared to the rest of the country according to RespectAbility, a nonprofit that advances opportunities 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 all practice inclusive hiring and have had great success.
“People with disabilities bring unique characteristics and talents to Kentucky’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 goes to Stephanie Farfan, Laura Haney and Heidi Wangelin.