St. Paul, MN, October 8 – “Individuals with disabilities are valuable and skillful workers, as well as productive contributors and taxpayers in the workforce,” said Minnesota Governor Tim Walz in a proclamation marking October as Disability Employment Awareness Month.
Gov. Walz’s proclamation highlighted “the decades of activism and advocacy by the disability community” which have opened doors and improve society. Additionally, the proclamation spotlighted Minnesota’s continued work on the state’s Olmstead Plan and included a commitment to provide “Minnesotans with disabilities with a continuum of work options that best meet individual needs and choices in a person-centered manner.”
This is an important public commitment for the 296,969 working-age people living with disabilities in the North Star State. In the economic expansion prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Minnesota had a 48.1 percent disability employment rate. By contrast, people without disabilities had an employment rate of 85.3 percent. That means that there is a 37.1percentage 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, the Chairman of RespectAbility, a national disability inclusion organization. “People with disabilities deserve the opportunity to earn an income and achieve independence, just like anyone else. Celebrating NDEAM in Minnesota 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 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.