Washington, D.C. Oct. 18 – Gov. John Kasich has declared October 2018 Disability Employment Awareness Month in Ohio.
“Maximizing the skills and talents of all Ohioans is essential to our state’s success and the skills that individuals with disabilities bring to our workforce, in both the public and private sectors, are vitally important,” writes Kasich in his proclamation. “Ohio’s workforce is enhanced when individuals with disabilities are employed and Ohio is fully committed to working with individuals to utilize their education, qualifications, talents and experiences to help them achieve employment.”
Citing the transformative work of Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities, Kasich added, “Ohio is setting the standard for bringing business leaders and disability stakeholders together to reduce barriers faced by those seeking employment.”
This proclamation follows a solid year of job growth that saw 6,707 Ohioans with disabilities get new jobs last year.
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 851,743 working-age people with disabilities living in Ohio.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, 304,940 or 35.8 percent have jobs. According to RespectAbility, a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that works to fight stigmas and advance opportunities for people with disabilities, Ohio ranks 29th compared to the other states.
“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.”
Ohio has been working hard on more jobs for people with disabilities since 2012. That year, Kasich signed an Employment First Executive Order that aligned community services and supports to empower more people with disabilities to enter the workforce.
Ohio is also home to a transformative model of competitive, integrated employment that is enabling thousands of youth with disabilities earn an income and become independent. From its humble origins in the emergency room of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, Project SEARCH has become a global enterprise dedicated to empowering youth with intellectual and developmental disabilities. From Ohio, SEARCH now serves communities and employers in 46 states as well as the U.K, the EU and Canada.
Locally, the past May, Mercy Health-St. Rita’s graduated its fifth consecutive class of Project SEARCH interns. What makes this program special? “They’re learning job skills and gaining experiences and the whole end goal is to get a job,” said Leigh Taylor, Project Search instructor and coordinator. Five out of the six 2018 graduated have already gotten jobs thanks to the skills they have learned.
Every year Mercy Health-St. Rita’s and other SEARCH host sites gain the chance to recruit talented, trained and work-ready young people with disabilities.
“They’ve learned how to follow directions, pay attention, work with the adult working population because they did just come from high school. When they’re done here they receive their diploma from high school, they graduate from Project Search and they go into that adult working world in a competitive job,” added the Mercy Health-St. Rita’s Project Search instructor. From a site at Miami University in the west to Aultman Hospital in the east, to Lake County Board of DD/Deepwood in Mentor, Project SEARCH is achieving transformative outcomes.
Each site proves 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. In addition, they are more likely to be loyal to a company once they are hired. Companies such as JP Morgan Chase, Coca-Cola, Walgreens, UPS, IBM and Starbucks practice inclusive hiring and have had great success.
“People with disabilities bring unique characteristics and talents to Ohio’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.”