Washington, D.C., Oct. 8 – Gov. Steve Bullock has declared October as Disability Employment Awareness Month in Montana.
“This coming month is an opportunity to celebrate the strong work ethic and talents that employees with disabilities bring to our communities, our economy, and our nation,” writes Bullock in the proclamation. “Welcoming the talents of all people, including people with disabilities, is a critical part of our efforts to build an inclusive community and stronger economy.”
This proclamation follows a solid year of job growth among Montanans with disabilities. Last year, 4,459 Montanans with disabilities got new jobs.
Activities throughout the month should reflect the message that people with and without disabilities share the same workplace goals and values. According to Gov. Bullock, these values and goals are “to achieve personal success through education, meaningful work, and connections with our families and communities.”
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 76,169 working-age people living with disabilities in Montana. 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, 33,419, or 43.9 percent have jobs. According to RespectAbility, a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that works to fight stigmas and advance opportunities for people with disabilities, Montana ranks 10th 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.”
Since his reelection campaign in 2016, Gov. Bullock has been committed to working on the issues that impact the Disability Community in Montana. Specific achievement have included: ensuring the state’s “Department of Public Health and Human Services works hard to empower all Montanans with disabilities to prepare, obtain, and retain work in high-quality and high-demand careers”. Likewise, Montana has reimagined “the state’s vocational rehabilitation, independent living, and disability services to better serve Montanans with disability in living the lives they choose and deserve.” Lastly, Montana was “just the fourth state in the country to adopt the Community First Choice Program in Medicaid” and “the 10th state in the country to sign legislation creating tax free savings accounts” for people with disabilities and their families.
The good news can be found in more places than just the state capital. There is a great success story to be found in Butte, Montana. 7KBZK recently ran a story showcasing the tremendous success experienced by local business, the OMG Mongolian Grill. The restaurant’s owners Tom and Kristi Cronnelly are recommending that other businesses follow their lead, citing NDEAM. They plan to host a workshop in October highlighting the benefits of hiring people with disabilities for other local businesses. To cite just a few, people with disabilities are loyal, hardworking and present new ways of thinking. In addition, hiring people with disabilities can entitle companies to a federal tax credit and give them access to a job coach.
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 Montana’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.”