Washington, D.C., Oct. 15 – Gov. Mark Dayton has declared October 2018 Disability Employment Awareness Month in Minnesota.
“Individuals with disabilities are proving themselves as valuable and productive contributors and taxpayers in the workforce,” writes Dayton in his proclamation. “To benefit Minnesota’s economy and its competitiveness in the global marketplace, the State of Minnesota must value the contributions of all people, including those with disabilities.”
This proclamation comes after a year of steady job growth for people with disabilities. Last year, 3,823 Minnesotans with disabilities got 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. In total, there are 302,274 working-age people with disabilities living in Minnesota. 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, 145,000 have jobs, giving the state a 48 percent disability employment rate. According to RespectAbility, a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that works to fight stigmas and advance opportunities for people with disabilities, Minnesota ranks 3rd 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 continued, “People with disabilities deserve equal opportunity to earn an income and achieve independence just like anyone else.”
Interviewed by RespectAbility earlier in 2018, Dayton spoke about his deep commitment to disability employment.
“We made it a priority. We worked hard with outreach with leaders in the disability community. To let them know that we have jobs starting in the state government. [I’m] thrilled to know that we’re leading the country; we have more to do. We have wonderful people that have great talents and we have men and women with disabilities in our office as well as the governor’s residence and they do fantastic work, so I hope this trend will continue.”
Kaposia is a unique, Minnesota-based organization dedicated to finding fairly paying employment solutions for people with disabilities in integrated, community settings. According to a testimonial, client Jessica is able to follow her passion for working with dogs as the owner of a grooming company. Kaposia helped match her with Just Paws Pet Salon after she felt her capabilities were being overlooked by a larger pet company. By working with Jessica in insisting that her talents be taken seriously and that she works in the community, she has been able to live up to her full potential.
Kaposia is just one small example that shows how people with disabilities can succeed. 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. As an employer, it is important to consider these talents and advantages when hiring workers.
“People with disabilities bring unique characteristics and talents to Minnesota’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.