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As NDEAM Approaches, Gov. Inslee Recognizes the “Value and Talent That People with Disabilities Add to Our Workplaces”

Olympia, WA, September 24 – In a proclamation marking October as Disability Employment Awareness Month, Washington Governor Jay Inslee made clear his state’s “continued expansion of employment opportunities” and “the greater acceptance of” workers with disabilities “in the competitive labor market.”

The Evergreen State Governor also reiterated that “workplaces welcoming of the talents of all people, including people with disabilities, are a critical part of our efforts to build an inclusive community and strong economy.” Lastly, he asked Washington state to join him in “recognizing the value and talent that people with disabilities add to our workplaces and communities.”

This is an important public commitment for the more than 478,673 working-age Washingtonians living with disabilities. In the economic expansion prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Washington had a 42 percent disability employment rate. By contrast, people without disabilities had an employment rate of 80 percent. That means that there is a 37.4 percentage point gap in labor force participation rates between people with and without disabilities.

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), an annual celebration dedicated to raising awareness about disability employment issues and celebrating the incredible contributions of people with disabilities. The theme for NDEAM 2021 is “America’s Recovery: Powered by Inclusion.” This theme reflects the importance of ensuring that people with disabilities have full access to employment and community involvement during the national recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“NDEAM’s theme calls attention to a key principle: Our nation was founded on the principle that anyone who works hard should be able to get ahead in life,” said Olegario “Ollie” Cantos VII, Chairman of the national disability inclusion organization RespectAbility. “People with disabilities deserve the opportunity to earn an income and achieve independence, just like anyone else. Celebrating NDEAM in Washington is just the first step in getting more people with disabilities into the workforce so they can earn an income and be included in all aspects of society.”

The success or failure of getting more people with disabilities integrated into the workforce impacts thousands of communities and millions of families nationwide. According to the Census Bureau, there are more than 56 million Americans living with a disability. Disabilities include visible conditions such as spinal cord injuries, visual impairments or hearing loss and nonvisible disabilities such as learning disabilities, mental health or Autism.

Brand name companies such as JP Morgan Chase, Coca-Cola, Ernst & Young, IBM, Walgreens, Starbucks, CVS and Microsoft know that workers with disabilities improve the bottom line and add value to the workforce.

“People with disabilities bring unique characteristics and talents to the workplace,” added RespectAbility President Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi. “There are no limits to what we can do when given the chance.”

Meet the Author

Philip Pauli

Philip Kahn-Pauli is the Policy and Practices Director of RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for people with disabilities. He works with state leaders to develop solutions for youth with disabilities, support job seekers with disabilities and open pathways into the workforce. To reach him, email [email protected]

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