Washington D.C., Oct. 19 – Gov. Andrew Cuomo has declared October as National Disability Employment Month (NDEM) in New York.
“New York affirms its commitment to promoting diversity in the workplace by highlighting the rich talent and abilities that exist…and promoting inclusive communities that welcome individuals with all types of disabilities,” writes Cuomo. “New York’s government agencies that serve individuals with development and/or intellectual…mental health disabilities have affirmed the state’s commitment to community living by developing implementation plans which include collaboration among many partners that will foster…the creation of more employment options.”
This commitment from the governor comes at a time when jobs for people with disabilities has been increasing in New York state. Last year, 5,081 New Yorkers with disabilities gained 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 1,109,370 working-age people with disabilities living in New York state. 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, 367,478, or 33.1 percent, have jobs. According to RespectAbility, a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that works to fight stigmas and advance opportunities for people with disabilities, New York ranks 40th 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.”
New York State offers a wide range of options to support and empower people with disabilities into the workforce. Across the state Project SEARCH offer school-to-work opportunities for youth with intellectual and developmental disabilities to enter the competitive workforce. SEARCH is a unique, employer-driven transition program that prepares students with disabilities for employment success. From serving seniors, to opening pathways into healthcare careers, these opportunities are having transformative impacts on the lives of young people with disabilities.
The state also has received Disability Employment Initiative grants from the United States Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration and the Office of Disability Employment Policy. These grants have enabled the hiring of Disability Resource Coordinators to provide specific supports to job seekers with disabilities. Likewise, across the state, the Office for People With Developmental Disabilities oversees Supported Employment and Employment Training programs.
Nearly half of all working-age New Yorkers with disabilities live in the greater New York City metropolitan area. In total, 455,000 working-age people with disabilities in the city. Under Mayor De Blasio, the city has launched NYC ATWORK: a successful program to provide resources and opportunities to job-seekers with disabilities. This effort is overseen by the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities, led by Commissioner Victor Calise. NYC ATWORK helps connect people with disabilities looking for jobs and businesses looking to hire qualified individuals.
New York businesses have shown they are willing to engage with the disability community. Jim Sinocchi is the head of disability inclusion for JPMorgan Chase. He believes that employees with disabilities are valuable employees and promises that JPMorgan is committed to full inclusion, which “requires a leadership team with the will, commitment and attitude to identify, train and groom professionals with disabilities for leadership positions at the firm as we do with mainstream employees.”
New Yorkers 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, Pepsi, UPS, IBM, Starbucks, and Walgreens practice inclusive hiring and have had great success.
“People with disabilities bring unique characteristics and talents to New York’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 Heidi Wangelin, Laura Haney, and Stephanie Farfan.