Nashville, TN, October 5 – “Tennessee passed the State as a Model Employer (SAME) Bill, ensuring that state agencies and departments design and proactively implement best, promising, and emerging policies, practices, and procedures related to the recruitment, hiring, advancement, and retention of qualified individuals with disabilities,” said Tennessee Governor Bill Lee in a proclamation marking October as Disability Employment Awareness Month.
Gov. Lee also recommitted his state to recognizing “the value of employees with disabilities to the state’s current and future workforce,” and celebrated Tennessee’s “public policy accomplishments concerning expanding employment opportunities for citizens with disabilities.”
This is an important public commitment for the more than 533,630 working-age people living with disabilities in Tennessee. In the economic expansion prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Tennessee had a 35.2 percent disability employment rate. By contrast, people without disabilities had an employment rate of 78.2 percent. That means that there is a 42.9 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 Tennessee 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.