Topeka, KS, October 12 – Kansas recognizes “the skills, reliability and productivity that Kansans with disabilities brings to our workforce,” said Governor Laura Kelly in a proclamation marking October as Kansas Disability Employment Awareness Month.
Gov. Kelly also recommitted her state to an “Employment First policy, [supporting] the efforts of business leadership networks in Kansas City and Sedgwick County, [providing] support to workers with disabilities through the WORK and Work Healthy programs” as well as other service programs that help Kansans with disabilities find jobs. To that end, the state of Kansas has “created the Special Employment Supports Coordinator position to coordinate employment opportunities for people with disabilities across agencies,” and is “supporting telework for state employees as well as private sector employees that help those with disabilities continue to work at home.”
Gov. Kelly concluded that “all Kansans have a role to play in – and benefits to gain from – increasing opportunities for competitive, integrated employment for people with disabilities.”
These are important public commitments for the more than 208,624 working-age people living with disabilities in Kansas. In the economic expansion prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Kansas had a 44.2 percent disability employment rate. By contrast, people without disabilities had an employment rate of 82.3 percent. That means that there is a 38-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, RespectAbility’s new Chairman. “People with disabilities deserve the opportunity to earn an income and achieve independence, just like anyone else. Celebrating NDEAM in Kansas 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.”
Find more information about NDEAM, including proclamations from other Governors and upcoming events, at RespectAbility’s NDEAM website.