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As NDEAM Begins, Gov. Polis Celebrates “Significant Contributions” of Colorado’s Workers with Disabilities

Denver, CO, October 1 – “People with disabilities make significant contributions to Colorado’s economic and social wellbeing,” said Colorado Governor Jared Polis in a proclamation marking October as Disability Employment Awareness Month.

Gov. Polis also noted that despite their considerable talents, Coloradans with disabilities “face barriers to employment, denying them the opportunity to use their skills and perspectives and depriving employers of the talent they need to grow.” According to Polis, “investment in workforce services is essential.”

This is an important public commitment for the more than 298,000 working-age people living with disabilities in the Centennial State. In the economic expansion prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Colorado boasted a 47.2 percent percent disability employment rate. By contrast, people without disabilities had an employment rate of 81.6 percent. That means that there is a 34.3 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 Colorado 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.”

Polis’ proclamation also called attention to several key accomplishments on disability employment issues from his tenure in office. The NDEAM proclamation cited the work of the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment’s Division of Vocational Rehabilitation and “the state’s 52 Workforce Centers” dedicated to supporting workers with and without disabilities get back to work after the pandemic. Polis also praised the work of “Centers for Independent Living and Certified Work Incentives Coordinators” who specifically “help people with disabilities navigate the impacts of working on any benefits they receive, including the Medicaid Buy-in for Working Adults with Disabilities.”

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 they can do when given the chance.”

Find more information about NDEAM, including proclamations from other Governors and upcoming events, at RespectAbility’s NDEAM website.

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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