Washington, D.C., Oct. 18 – Gov. Kate Brown has declared October 2018 Disability Employment Awareness Month in Oregon.
“Workplaces welcoming talents of all people, including people with disabilities, are a critical part of our efforts to build an inclusive community and strong economy,” writes Brown in her proclamation. “In the spirit of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Workforce Innovation and Opportunities Act (WIOA), Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Oregon’s Employment First initiative, we can improve and expand access to education and opportunities for people with disabilities to integrate into the workplace.”
Brown adds, “By working together to open doors of opportunity for all Oregon residents, including for those with disabilities, we can help fulfill the promise of our great State.”
Even as more people with disabilities got jobs nationally, 2,241 Oregonians with disabilities lost their jobs last year. The sobering reality of this fact gives Beaver State residents the chance to pause and think about what can be done to improve outcomes.
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 ation’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 303,115 working age people with disabilities living in Oregon. 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, 118,914, or 39.2 percent, have jobs. According to RespectAbility, a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that works to fight stigmas and advance opportunities for people with disabilities, Oregon ranks 19th in the nation in terms of employment of people with disabilities.
“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 added, “People with disabilities deserve equal opportunity to earn an income and achieve independence just like anyone else.”
Under Brown, many of the essential building blocks are in place for great success among job seekers with disabilities. In January, new rules were announced to advance the state’s Employment First policies. Likewise, Project SEARCH, a nationally transformative school to work transition program for youth with disabilities, has been expanded across Oregon with a new effort at the Portland Water Bureau. At SEARCH sites in Eugene, Clackamas and Hillsboro, young people with disabilities have the chance to explore careers in the expanding healthcare industry.
Project SEARCH 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. Companies such as JP Morgan Chase, Coca-Cola, Walgreens, UPS, IBM and Starbucks 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 Oregon’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.