Washington, D.C., Oct. 12 – Gov. Rick Snyder has declared October to be Disability Employment Awareness Month in Michigan.
“People with developmental disabilities in Michigan share with the state’s other residents the right to work in competitive, integrative work environments with the necessary support,” writes Snyder. “Every person, regardless of ability, has valuable strengths, infinite capacity to learn and make important contributions to their local communities.”
Snyder adds, “It is important to promote opportunities for all people with disabilities in Michigan so they may gain individual integrated employment.”
This proclamation follows a record year of job growth among Michiganders with disabilities. Last year, more than 19,000 job seekers with disabilities entered Michigan’s workforce.
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 764,335 people with disabilities living in Michigan. 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, 254,334 have jobs, giving the state a 33.3 percent disability employment rate. According to RespectAbility, a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that works to fight stigmas and advance opportunities for people with disabilities, Michigan ranks 37th 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.”
While it is good news that more people with disabilities are entering the workforce, the ranking signals the opportunity for improvement in hiring practices across the state.
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has been successful in matching workers with disabilities to jobs in the community. According to Newsweek, the department has helped match 36,586 people with jobs in 4,600 different companies with the average rate of pay being $14.74. The department does this by not only assessing the talents for the people they serve, but by figuring out exactly what needs businesses have. With more job vacancies and the rising numbers of working-age people with disabilities, the article states that more people with disabilities are getting hired.
The model set forth by Department of Health and Human Services shows that 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. Companies such as JP Morgan Chase, Coca-Cola, UPS, IBM, Starbucks and Walgreens practice inclusive hiring and have had great success.
“People with disabilities bring unique characteristics and talents to Michigan’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 Laura Haney, Emily Kranking, and Stephanie Farfan.