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Oklahoma’s Gov. Stitt is Committed to Continuing Employment Growth for People with Disabilities

Photos of the outside of Edmond's Super Scoop and the inside of the ice cream shop with an employee waving and smiling at the camera

Edmond’s Super Scoop ice cream store

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, Oct. 12 – Edmond’s Super Scoop ice cream store will continue their tradition of hiring people with disabilities in a new merger with Hank’s Coffee Shop. “So often we forget they are left out,” says the Executive Director of the newly merged store, Not Your Average Joe, about people with disabilities.

Not Your Average Joe is one such example of how Oklahoma is improving its employment rate for people with disabilities.

127,608 working-age Oklahomans with disabilities are employed, putting the state’s disability employment rate at 37.6 percent. 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.

As such, Gov. Kevin Stitt has declared October as Disability Employment Awareness Month to help raise this percentage.

“The Oklahoma Works partnership fosters an inclusive workforce that recognizes every Oklahoman for the talents of all people” Gov. Stitt stated.

Oklahoma Works focuses on facilitating quality employment for all people including people with disabilities. Their partnership with the governor’s council for workforce and economic development is necessary for advancing opportunities for people with disabilities.

This proclamation follows a solid year of job growth among people with disabilities living in the Sooner State. 4,040 people with disabilities entered Oklahoma’s’ workforce last year. While this is a small number, it is a step forward and part of a continued trend of new jobs for the one in five Americans living with a disclosed disability.

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. According to RespectAbility, a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that works to fight stigmas and advance opportunities so that people with disabilities can participate fully in society, Oklahoma ranks 29th in the nation on jobs for people with disabilities.

South Dakota, North Dakota and Utah have the highest disability employment rates of any state. These are the results of deliberate strategies implemented by leaders in the community, in government and in the school system. Employment First is one such strategy. It is a strategy where critical social programs are oriented toward ensuring that getting a job is the top priority for individuals with disabilities. That goal is reinforced with high expectations among the teachers, coaches and parents around that individual.

Oklahoma can further capitalize on past successes by following the example of states that show constant improvement such as Florida and Ohio. Both can attribute a portion of their growth in disability employment to Project SEARCH, a program for young adults with disabilities to improve their skills, learn from job coaches and ultimately find a job. Data shows that 70 percent of SEARCH interns who complete their training obtain competitive employment. By expanding such critical programs, Oklahoma can increase the number of people with disabilities entering the workforce.

Companies that embrace employees with disabilities clearly see the results in their bottom line. According to Accenture, disability-inclusive companies have higher productivity levels and lower staff turnover rates, are twice as likely to outperform their peers in shareholder returns and create larger returns on investment.

The fact is that disability is part of the human experience. It is nothing to fear because all of us will be affected by it eventually, whether by accident, aging or illness. Opening more job opportunities to people with disabilities will mean stronger communities and a better economy for all. Achieving that requires all of us working together because people with disabilities are the right talent, right now.

Meet the Author

Gloria Medina

Gloria Medina wants to help all communities living in the margins of society, as she understands what it feels like to not get the same opportunities as others and to have stigma attached to a part of one’s identity.

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