Baton Rouge, Oct.4 – Gov. John Bel Edwards has declared October as Disability Employment Awareness Month in Louisiana. In a signed proclamation, the Governor wrote, “When we diversify our workforce, we create opportunities for growth and improvement – not just for those with disabilities, but for everyone.”
Edwards also proclaimed, “Workplaces who welcome 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.”
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, 384,377 working-age people are living with disabilities in Louisiana. 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, 120,443 have jobs. That means the Pelican State has a disability employment rate of 31.3 percent. According to RespectAbility, a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that works to fight stigmas and advance opportunities for people with disabilities, Louisiana ranks 44th 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 Louisiana’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.”
To celebrate National Disability Employment Awareness Month, Lighthouse Louisiana, an advocacy group for people with disabilities, will offer Inclusion Day: Overcoming Barriers to Employment, a morning of presentations and panels. It takes place on Friday, Oct. 5 beginning at 11:00 a.m.
Additional research and writing credit go to Heidi Wangelin, Laura Haney, and Stephanie Farfan.