Raleigh, NC, October 8 – North Carolina must “increase opportunities for fair wages, career employment, and economic self-sufficiency for individuals with disabilities,” said Governor Roy Cooper in a proclamation marking October as Disability Employment Awareness Month.
Gov. Cooper also recommitted to “transforming state government into a model employer of people with disabilities” according to Executive Order No. 92. The order announced North Carolina as “an employment first state,” and promised North Carolinians with disabilities further access to employment, internship opportunities, job development, transition programs, and support services through the state’s vocational rehabilitation divisions and services for the blind within the Department of Health and Human Services.
These are important public commitments for the more than 682,617 working-age people living with disabilities in the Tar Heel State. In the economic expansion prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, North Carolina had a 35.3 percent disability employment rate. By contrast, people without disabilities had an employment rate of 77.4 percent. That means that there is a 42-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, 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 North Carolina 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.