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Bank of America: Including Employees with Disabilities Helps Us Be Better

Speakers and guests at Bank of America's Southern California DAN event smiling together. Text: #RespectTheAbility

Speakers and guests at Bank of America’s Southern California Disability Advocacy Network annual event.

Los Angeles, California, Oct. 31 – “Don’t limit us to what you think we are capable of doing,” Tatiana Lee said to hundreds of Bank of America employees assembled to celebrate the power of employing people with disabilities. “We will surprise you.”

Employees with disabilities and their allies gathered to recognize the value of including people with disabilities, both in terms of staff and as customers. The Southern California’s Disability Advocacy Network (DAN)’s signature year-end event recognized National Disability Employment Awareness Month, seeking advice from disability advocates on how they can be more inclusive of people with disabilities. Globally, DAN has grown by 70 percent over the last three years and now has more than 7,000 global members. Not all members, however, are people with disabilities or their family members. Some members joined DAN because they recognize the role of allyship and how employees with disabilities makes their company stronger.

Four panelists sitting and speaking as part of a discussion on the power to include people with disabilities in the media.

Panel on Media Representation of People with Disabilities at Bank of America’s Southern California Disability Advocacy Network annual event

“My mother never doubted what I could do,” said Lee, an actress with spina bifida who uses a wheelchair. “But she did say because I am a black girl with a disability, I’m going to have to fight three times as hard.” Lee, speaking to the Southern California DAN members, advocates for disability inclusion in the entertainment industry by partnering with the nonprofit RespectAbility.

Closing the event, DAN Executive Sponsor John Berens, who is a mortgage and vehicle operations executive in global technology and operations at Bank of America, emphasized the bank’s approach to a socially conscious model of working with people with disabilities, versus a charity model of working for people with disabilities. “We believe in inclusiveness at the bank,” he stressed. “It helps us be better.”

This annual event is just one of several ways Bank of America acknowledges the contributions of people with disabilities. In 2017, the bank conducted a self-identification campaign for their employees, which resulted in the number of employees who disclosed having a disability doubling. Building a culture where employees feel comfortable disclosing – even in an anonymous manner – is an important step leading to full inclusion for potential hires, employees, customers and the communities the bank serves. [continue reading…]

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee Recognizes “the Value of Employees with Disabilities.”

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee smiling in front of the state flag and an American flagNashville, Tennessee, Oct. 31 – Gov. Bill Lee has declared October as Disability Employment Awareness Month to advance economic opportunities for Tennesseans with disabilities.

“Every person, regardless of ability, has valuable strengths, infinite capacity to learn and the potential to make important contributions to their local communities,” Gov. Lee said in a statement released earlier this month.  He went on to call attention to the “value of employees with disabilities to the state’s current and future workforce” as well as his state’s efforts at “expanding employment opportunities for citizens with disabilities.”

This proclamation follows a year of solid job growth for people with disabilities in the Volunteer State. 4,679 Tennesseans with disabilities entered the workforce last year, part of a national trend of jobs gained among people with disabilities. [continue reading…]

Gov. Tim Walz Argues that Employees with Disabilities “Benefit Minnesota’s Economy”

Governor Tim Walz smiling in front of an American flag and the Minnesota state flagSaint Paul, Minnesota, Oct. 31 – This month, the Twin Cities Arby’s was named an Outstanding Disability Employer by the Minnesota Organization for Habilitation and Rehabilitation. This recognition happened as part of a state-wide celebration of National Disability Employment Awareness Month. Ben Kopnick, coordinator of the grant program that supported Arby’s to hire more employees with disabilities spoke about “working to integrate them in their workplace culture” and the employees with disabilities learning to “push themselves and grow their skillsets.”

Arby’s is one such example of how the North Star State is working to continue expanding job opportunities for Minnesotans with disabilities.

In a statement released earlier this month, Gov. Tim Walz proclaimed October to be “Employers Hiring People with Disabilities Month.” [continue reading…]

Gov. Michael Dunleavy reaffirms “Alaska’s commitment” to Jobs for People with Disabilities

Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy smiling in front of the Alaska state flagJuneau, Alaska, Oct. 31 – Alaska Gov. Michael J. Dunleavy has declared October as Disability Employment Awareness Month to help advance more economic opportunities for people with disabilities.

“This observance, highlights the talent and value added to our workplace and our communities by individuals with disabilities, and reaffirms the State of Alaska’s commitment to all of our citizens,” Gov. Dunleavy wrote in a statement released earlier this month. His proclamation also discussed how “competitive and unified employment provides individuals with a sense of pride, financial security, stable living conditions, access to better health management, and increased independence.”

Further, the proclamation also reflected on Alaska’s standing commitments as a “Employment First State, prioritizing competitive and assimilated employment for Alaskans.” Lastly, Gov. Dunleavy also touched on “the Alaska Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act” that “empowers Alaskans with disabilities to pursue employment earnings and savings, while allowing them to still qualify for vital public benefits.”

This statement reflects the accomplishments of a state that outperforms many of the Lower 48 states in the Union. A recent study by RespectAbility, a nonpartisan disability inclusion organization, found that Alaska ranks 12th out of the 50 states in terms of disability employment. [continue reading…]

Gov. Ducey Says Arizonans with Disabilities Have “Essential Role” in “Arizona’s Success”

Governor Doug Ducey smiling in front of an American flag and the Arizona state flagTempe, Arizona, Oct. 31 – Tempe is leading the state in a new effort to expand job opportunities for Arizonans with disabilities. Thanks to the leadership of the Arizona Developmental Disabilities Planning Council and Mayor Mark W. Mitchell, the City of Tempe has launched a new Building Employment Supports & Training (BEST) program. This program is intended to help job seekers with disabilities secure part-time employment by developing key relationships with diverse partners. Covering everything from “changing the City of Tempe’s culture, linguistic competency, and creating a municipality model” to “providing city employees, workgroups, and BEST employees training for success.”

According to the Institute on Disability, 156,194 Arizonans with disabilities have jobs, putting the state’s disability employment rate at 36.5 percent. That total includes people who are blind or deaf or have other visible conditions such as spinal cord injuries, as well as people with invisible disabilities including learning disabilities, mental health or Autism.

As such, Gov. Doug Ducey has declared October to be Disability Employment Awareness Month to advance more opportunities for Arizonans with disabilities. [continue reading…]

Gov. Whitmer Focuses on Michiganders with “invisible disabilities” in October Proclamation

Governor Gretchen Whitmer smiling in front of an American flag and a Michigan state flagLansing, Michigan, Oct. 31 – Earlier this month, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued a proclamation focusing on the stigmas and barriers associated with “invisible or hidden” disabilities for Disability Employment Awareness Month. Her statement spoke about how “10 percent of people live with a condition which could be considered an invisible or hidden disability” and that “nearly half of Americans are living with a chronic medical condition.”

Meanwhile, in Michigan’s state legislature, bipartisan leaders are throwing their weight behind an initiative to advance employment opportunities for people with disabilities. State Reps. Jon Hoadley (D-60th District) and Steve Marino (R-24th District) are championing a pair of bills focused on expanding the use of and covering the costs associated with reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities. Both bills are the result of the advocacy work by the Disability Network Southwest Michigan, which motivated Hoadley to “help more people with disabilities enter the workplace.” The bipartisan package would allow employers to apply for up to $1,000 to make reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities. [continue reading…]

Fox’s 9-1-1 Continues to Normalize Real-Life Disability Scenarios

Oliver Stark on 9-1-1 sitting by a firetruck

Oliver Stark as Buck on 9-1-1. Photo Credit: Fox

Los Angeles, California, Oct. 28 – Fox’s 9-1-1 is no stranger to disability representation, introducing a recurring character with a disability last season, working to normalize the inclusion of people with disabilities in all areas of society. This season continues this trend – both with promoting Gavin McHugh, who has cerebral palsy and plays Christopher Diaz to a series regular, and adding additional storylines relating to disability.

During a routine fire drill in Episode 4, “Triggers,” a businessman has an epileptic seizure, most likely due to the strobing lights and loud sounds of the drill. When he falls, it causes a domino effect, with dozens of individuals falling down the stairway. As he is being put into the ambulance a lawyer from the building approaches him. “I have reason to believe this building is not in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act,” he says. “There are several legal actions you may wish to consider.” [continue reading…]

Employment Matters for People with Disabilities

Five images of people with disabilities working. Text: The Right Talent, Right Now National Disability Employment Awareness Month #NDEAM dol.gov/odep

Poster for NDEAM 2019. Credit: Office of Disability Employment Policy, U.S. Department of Labor

Washington D.C., Oct. 28 – October marks the 73rd annual celebration of National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). This month is a chance to celebrate job seekers with disabilities who are striving to work and companies that are dedicated to recruiting talented employees with disabilities. The theme for NDEAM 2019 is “The Right Talent, Right Now.” Indeed, employment matters for people with disabilities for more than just financial reasons. People with disabilities are seeking the opportunity to achieve independence, just like anyone else.

To mark this celebration, the White House released a Presidential Proclamation “to celebrate the contributions of Americans with disabilities to our country’s workforce and economic strength.” The proclamation also reaffirmed the administration’s commitment “to fostering opportunity for Americans of all abilities to apply their skills and talents in the workplace.”

Statistics released earlier this year by the Institute on Disability show that out of more than 20 million working-age people with disabilities, only 7.5 million have jobs. That total includes people who are blind or deaf or have other visible conditions such as spinal cord injuries, as well as people with invisible disabilities including learning disabilities, mental health or Autism. [continue reading…]

New Jersey Gov. Murphy Celebrates Increase in State’s Disability Employment During Disability Employment Awareness Month

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy smiling in front of the state flag.Trenton, New Jersey, Oct. 28 – “People with all ranges of disabilities can achieve employment, providing a sense of purpose, dignity, accomplishment and earned income,” said New Jersey Gov. Philip Murphy in a proclamation marking October as Disability Employment Awareness Month.

A trio of culinary delicacies show that New Jersians with disabilities can be successful employees. No Limits Cafe is a successful coffee and pastry shop in Red Bank that prides itself on being intentional with training and ultimately employing people with intellectual disabilities. Popcorn for the People in East Brunswick employs adults with Autism, combating the current 80 percent unemployment rate in the autistic community with the training and hiring of adults with Autism to create, package and sell uniquely flavored gourmet popcorn. Grateful Bites is a bakery, café and restaurant in Flemington is a creation of Ability2Work, which provides a fully inclusive and supported business environment for people with disabilities to find meaningful lives and jobs they love. All three of these companies excel because of the inclusion of employees with disabilities. [continue reading…]

Rep. Steve Bartlett Brings His Passion For Disability Inclusion to RespectAbility Fellows

Rep. Steve Bartlett with RespectAbility Fall 2019 Fellows smiling in front of the RespectAbility banner

Rep. Steve Bartlett with RespectAbility Fall 2019 Fellows

Rockville, Maryland, Oct. 25 – When Rep. Steve Bartlett, Board Chair of RespectAbility, spoke to the organization’s National Leadership Fellows, he described the talk as BYOA (bring your own agenda). Every person in the room had the chance to have Rep. Bartlett talk about a subject important to them. In the span of an hour, the former U.S. Representative from Texas covered a wide range of topics such as the lack of bipartisanship in Washington, where to get accurate news information from, how to become more involved in politics, and why he became the co-author of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The first topic covered was the lack of bipartisanship in Washington, referring to the extreme polarization happening within the Democratic and Republican Parties. “Things are as bad as they have been since 1856,” said Rep. Bartlett, as he compared politics today to what started the civil war. He said he does not see things getting better for politics in America and thinks there is worse to come before it can get better. He explained how both the Democratic and the Republican parties have gone to their own extremes and are held captive by the 30 percent of people who vote in the primaries. Rep. Bartlett sees a solution for this crisis: a third, independent party. Bartlett has encouraged politicians to run as independent candidates but so far, no volunteers. The American people also need to ask for leadership from our leaders and representatives and demand respect from each side towards the other. [continue reading…]

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