Washington D.C., Oct. 4 – Gov. Jim Justice has declared October as Disability Employment Awareness Month in West Virginia.
“We commend all persons are committed to and work towards enhancing employment opportunities for people with disabilities,” Justice stated.
The proclamation goes on to discuss key state efforts to support and empower West Virginians with disabilities. Highlights include the “over $46 million in payroll” earned by people with disabilities through the state’s Community Rehab Programs and the advocacy efforts of the “West Virginia Association for Disability Employment.”
This proclamation follows a solid year of job growth among people with disabilities living in the Mountain State. 5,855 people with disabilities entered West Virginia’s workforce 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 is dedicated to raising awareness about disability employment issues and celebrating the incredible contributions of people with disabilities. In total, there are more than 194,669 working-age people with disabilities living in West Virginia. 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.
Of that number, 53,372 have jobs. That means West Virginia only has a disability employment rate of 27.4 percent. According to RespectAbility, a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that works to fight stigmas and advance opportunities for people with disabilities, West Virginia ranks 50th in the nation on jobs for 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 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 West Virginia’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.”