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Austin, TX, October 1 – “The month of October is dedicated to celebrating and recognizing the indispensable contributions Texans with disabilities provide to the Lone Star State’s economy,” said Texas Governor Greg Abbott in a proclamation marking October as Disability Employment Awareness Month.

Gov. Abbott, who is himself a wheelchair user, also noted that “promoting disability employment awareness,” “creating more inclusive workplaces,” and “cultivating more employment opportunities for Texans with disabilities” are key priorities in his final year in office.

This is an important public commitment for the more than 1.6 million working-age people living with disabilities in the Lone Star State. In the economic expansion prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Texas had a 41.9 percent disability employment rate. By contrast, people without disabilities had an employment rate of 77.5 percent. That means that there is a 35.5 percentage point gap in labor force participation rates between people with and without disabilities. [continue reading…]

St. Louis, MO, October 1 – In a proclamation marking October as Disability Employment Awareness Month, Missouri Governor Mike Parson reaffirmed “the State of Missouri’s commitment to an inclusive community that increases access and opportunities to all, including individuals with disabilities.”

This is an important public commitment for the more than 463,000 working-age people living with disabilities in Missouri. In the economic expansion prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Show Me State had a 36.9 percent disability employment rate. By contrast, people without disabilities had an employment rate of 80.2 percent. That means that there is a 43.2 percentage point gap in labor force participation rates between people with and without disabilities. [continue reading…]

Juneau, AK, October 3 – The “State of Alaska celebrates and recognizes the talents and contributions of individuals with disabilities in the workplace and commits to promoting awareness about disability employment opportunities,” said Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy in a proclamation marking the first week of October as Alaska Employ People with Disabilities Week.

Gov. Dunleavy’s proclamation went on to add that advancing opportunities for people with disabilities “is a critical part of our efforts to build an inclusive community and strong economy throughout Alaska.”

This is an important public commitment for the more than 44,000 working-age people living with disabilities in Alaska. In the economic expansion prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Alaska had a 38.8 percent disability employment rate. By contrast, people without disabilities had an employment rate of 74.2 percent. That means that there is a 35.3 percentage point gap in labor force participation rates between people with and without disabilities.
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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. [continue reading…]

Denver, CO, October 1 – “People with disabilities make significant contributions to Colorado’s economic and social wellbeing,” said Colorado Governor Jared Polis in a proclamation marking October as Disability Employment Awareness Month.

Gov. Polis also noted that despite their considerable talents, Coloradans with disabilities “face barriers to employment, denying them the opportunity to use their skills and perspectives and depriving employers of the talent they need to grow.” According to Polis, “investment in workforce services is essential.”

This is an important public commitment for the more than 298,000 working-age people living with disabilities in the Centennial State. In the economic expansion prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Colorado boasted a 47.2 percent percent disability employment rate. By contrast, people without disabilities had an employment rate of 81.6 percent. That means that there is a 34.3 percentage point gap in labor force participation rates between people with and without disabilities. [continue reading…]

Carson City, NV, October 1 – Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak took the opportunity to publicly celebrate National Disability Employment Awareness Month this October and to “celebrate the many and varied contributions of America’s workers with disabilities.”

Gov. Sisolak also recommitted his state “to take steps throughout the year to recruit, hire, retain, and advance people with disabilities and work to pursue the goals of opportunity, full participation, economic self-sufficiency, and independent living for people with disabilities.”

This is an important public commitment for the more than 176,000 working-age people living with disabilities in the Silver State. In the economic expansion prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Nevada had a 39.3 percent disability employment rate. By contrast, people without disabilities had an employment rate of 77.8 percent. That means that there is a 38.4 percentage point gap in labor force participation rates between people with and without disabilities. [continue reading…]

Colorado state flagDenver, CO, September 23 – This week, the Colorado Workforce Development Council (CWDC) met to discuss the status of workforce practices of the Centennial State. In response to this meeting, RespectAbility, a national nonpartisan nonprofit organization, submitted testimony on how to implement best practices, advocate for greater inclusion and improve the standing of people with disabilities in Colorado’s workforce.

“When it was passed with broad, bipartisan support in 2014, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) invested unprecedented resources into efforts to get people with barriers to employment into the labor force,” said Philip Kahn-Pauli, a native Coloradan and RespectAbility’s Policy and Practices Director. “Now, after the pandemic that has reshaped our economy, it is time to devote significant attention to supporting the economic advancement of students, job-seekers, and entrepreneurs with disabilities.” [continue reading…]

RespectAbility Summer Lab participants recently had the opportunity to speak to experts in the field with lifetimes of experience interfacing their art and advocacyLos Angeles, Sept. 23 – Disability is deeply underrepresented in many industries including entertainment and media, where numbers dwindle far below the 20% participation that would truly reflect the world as it is. Regardless, TV and film have a power to incite social change, drawing in underrepresented creatives as they work to craft a better world. For many, this leaves them with two jobs – to excel at their art and to fight for access for themselves and their communities.

RespectAbility Summer Lab participants recently had the opportunity to speak to experts in the field with lifetimes of experience interfacing their art and advocacy: Leah Meyerhoff, a screenwriter, director, and Founder of Film Fatales; Marci Phillips, VP of Casting at ABC Entertainment; Megan Townsend, Director of Entertainment Research and Analysis at GLAAD; Noriko Louison, Senior Manager of Research and Curriculum at 9Story Media Group; and Victor Pineda, filmmaker and President of World Enabled, and one of RespectAbility’s own Board Members. [continue reading…]

Washington, D.C., Sept. 20 – September is National Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) Awareness Month. More than 358,000 people live with SCI in the United States, and according to the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center, there are 17,810 new cases each year. Even before the pandemic, only 27 percent of people with SCI were employed 10 years after injury. Yet, some individuals with SCIs are working to change this – from policy to public opinion.

In the area of public policy, Rep. James Langevin paves the way for the disability community in Congress while Randall Duchesneau is making a difference at the US Access Board. Jim Sinocchi works to create more inclusive employment opportunities at JP Morgan Chase and Vincenzo Piscopo works to create change as president of United Spinal. Each is paving the way toward meaningful progress on behalf of people not only with SCIs, but also a wide range of disabilities. [continue reading…]

Ian Malesiewski smiling headshot

Ian Malesiewski

Los Angeles, Sept. 20 – Ian Malesiewski, who lives with a Spinal Cord Injury, was a Public Policy and Employment Fellow in RespectAbility’s National Leadership Program for Winter and Spring 2021, and he is now off to use his multidimensional academic background with his applied policy change experience to make spheres of influence in politics more inclusive for people with disabilities.

Malesiewski was awarded a full academic scholarship to the University of Miami, where he is majoring in neuroscience and triple minoring in chemistry, public health, and philosophy. His work with disability advocacy shifted his professional aspirations from a traditional med-school route, to one of law. RespectAbility exposed Malesiewski to the impact he can have through policy change, as he worked directly on the accessibility of the 2020 presidential election and relaunching America’s Workforce Act. In his law career, Malesiewski plans on prioritizing the employment gap of people with disabilities and expanding Medicaid and Medicare benefit programs. [continue reading…]

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