Washington D.C., Oct. 4 – Gov. Michael Parson has declared October as Disability Employment Awareness Month in Missouri.
“Workplaces welcoming of all people, including people with disabilities, are a critical part of the efforts to build an inclusive community and strong economy,” Parson wrote. Gov. Parson is dedicating October “to educate” employers and the public on “disability employment issues” and to “celebrate the many and varied contributions of America’s workers with disabilities.”
While only 669 Missourians with disabilities got new jobs last year, Gov. Parson is committing his state to improving outcomes in the future.
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 468,140 working-age people living with disabilities in Missouri. 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, 164,243, or 35.1 percent have jobs. According to RespectAbility, a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that works to fight stigmas and advance opportunities for people with disabilities, Missouri ranks 31st compared to the rest of the country. It is great news for the state that employment has risen, and this month presents the opportunity for even more growth.
“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 Missouri’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.”
In September, the Workforce Development Board of Southeast Missouri opened a new office in Madison County. The board’s mission is to improve workforce development opportunities for young adults with disabilities. They provide various services such as job matching, college or trade school preparedness trainings, and resources to receive high school diplomas. The program provides support for people aged 14 to 24 and to businesses who are looking to hire people with disabilities. Southeast Missouri has offices in every county that serve as a resource for young people looking for employment or educational resources.
According to the Kansas City Star, a program called Inclusion Connections was founded by Debbie Horn five years ago to help her son Matthew find jobs after graduating from high school. Horn was concerned about the obstacles to entry into the workforce and community life that her son and his peers would face out of high school. Since the organization’s founding, Inclusion Connections has helped Missourians with disabilities obtain employment and independent living. By offering opportunities for community employment, year-round life skills classes, and events open to the public, Horn’s organization assists people with disabilities in becoming community members as adults.
Additional research and writing credit go to Heidi Wangelin, Emily Kranking, and Stephanie Farfan.