Washington, D.C., Oct. 12 – Gov. Bill Haslam has officially proclaimed October as Disability Employment Awareness Month in Tennessee.
“People with disabilities in Tennessee share with the state’s other six million residents the desire to achieve personal success and economic self-sufficiency through meaningful work in the communities,” said Gov. Haslam in the proclamation. “Every person, regardless of ability, has valuable strengths, infinite capacity to learn, and the potential to make important contributions to their local communities.”
This proclamation comes after a year of steady job growth for people with disabilities. Last year, 7,191 people with disabilities gained job in Tennessee.
Activities throughout the month should reflect the message that people with and without disabilities share the same workplace goals and values. According to Gov. Haslam, these values and goals are “embracing systems change and achieving several milestones resulting in jobs in community settings at competitive wages.”
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 558,852 working-age people living with disabilities in Tennessee. 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, 174,370, or 31.2 percent have jobs. According to RespectAbility, a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that works to fight stigmas and advance opportunities for people with disabilities, Tennessee ranks 45th 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 Tennessee’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, Emily Kranking, and Stephanie Farfan.