Disability advocates and self-advocates do not allow disability to define who they are… or aren’t. The same idea applies to employment. In fact, October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month. For 2016, the theme is “#InclusionWorks,” that workers with disabilities are central to workplace diversity. The idea of recognizing the importance of gainful employment for people with disabilities goes back some 70 years, to October 1945, with President Harry S Truman’s National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week. In recognizing people with all disabilities, the word “physically” was dropped in 1962. Moreover, vocational training for students with both physical and intellectual disabilities goes back to the turn of the previous century, when a special-education teacher named Elizabeth Farrell used manual work as one way to provide a meaningful experience for her students with severe special needs at the Henry Street School in New York City.
As part of our mission to enhance the lives of people with all disabilities and enable their full participation in society, Advancing Opportunities provides employment services, including the following:
- Career planning
- Job Development
- Support for employers
- Accommodations at work sites.
The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) has done much to help make sure people with disabilities would have access to meaningful work. Central to the theme of #InclusionWorks is that both people with disabilities and the companies that hire them benefit. They realize the following:
- With the right supports, they can perform just as well as their non-disabled peers.
- Most employees with a disability are more reliable and less likely to quit than their non-disabled peers.
- Many households include someone with a disability; they are likely to want to support inclusive businesses.
- Hiring people with a disability promotes good will and a positive public image.
If work is such an important part of citizenship and civic responsibility, then should not as many people as possible be working? Even with the considerable success of ADA, as a group, people with disabilities are nearly twice as likely to be unemployed or underemployed; only about 1 in 5 are an active member of the work force, as we noted last year. In addition, the average monthly earnings of people with a disability are just slightly over half those of their non-disabled peers.
While significant challenges exist, one thing we can learn from many people with disabilities is that with hard work, challenges can be overcome. Advancing Opportunities is proud to be part of this positive change.