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As NDEAM Begins, Gov. Northam Celebrates Workers with Disabilities Who Help Drive Virginia’s Economy

Richmond, VA, October 1 – “Virginians with disabilities, including veterans, have the ability and desire to seek employment and to develop the skills they need to join Virginia’s economy,” said Virginia Governor Ralph Northam in a proclamation marking October as Disability Employment Awareness Month.

This is an important public commitment for the more than 491,000 working-age people living with disabilities in Virginia. In the economic expansion prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Virginia had a 43.3 percent disability employment rate. By contrast, people without disabilities had an employment rate of 80 percent. That means that there is a 36.6 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 Hon. Steve Bartlett, the Chair Emeritus 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 Virginia 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.”

Gov. Northam’s NDEAM proclamation also called attention to several key accomplishments on disability employment issues from his tenure in office. The proclamation cited the importance of House Bill 2140 which “went into effect on July 1, 2021” and specifically “directs the Dept. of Human Resource Management” to create new processes for recruiting workers with disabilities for jobs in state governments. Likewise, the proclamation also pointed to the critical equity and inclusion work of the Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer as established by Executive Order 47.

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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