It’s true. 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 (NDEAM). For 2018, the theme is “America’s Workforce: Empowering All.” The idea goes of NDEAM 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, the idea empowering all is not new. Back around the turn of the previous century, a caring teacher named Elizabeth Farrell used manual work as one way to provide a meaningful experience for her students with severe disabilities at the Henry Street School in New York City. A recent landmark, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) has done much to ensure that people with disabilities have access to meaningful work and the independence and dignity it brings. ADA prohibits all forms of discrimination of people with disabilities, both in hiring decisions and through an absence of reasonable accommodations.
If work is such an important part of citizenship and civic responsibility, then should not as many people as possible be working? Moreover, having work confers individuals with status and a sense of meaning, as well as independence and dignity. Yet, 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. In addition, the average month earnings of people with a disability are just slightly over half those of their non-disabled peers.
And What’s Good
In recent years, more and more employment agencies and business leadership groups are helping job seekers with a disability find a job—and for companies to find these candidates. Among the benefits of hiring people with disabilities are 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.
- With their positive outlook and sense of humor, people with Down syndrome often make the workplace a nice place to be a part of.
Our Commitment to Empowering Workers with Disabilities
Our Career Development Services department has, over the years, helped many New Jerseyans with a disability to experience the dignity of a job and enhance their independence of full participation in society. In addition to résumé building and job placement, Employment Specialists provide on-the-job support and transportation arrangements, all individually tailored to the individual needs of each consumer. Our services include the following:
- Job development
- Job supports
- Job-site training.
In addition to Ryan T., who we featured recently, individuals who have found success, happiness, and a greater sense of independence through employment include Paul B., Tarah C., Scott R., Wayne K., Steve R., and John C.
Good to Know
- Despite overall progress, especially since the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, only about one in five people with a disability is actively working.
- Until recent decades, few services for people with intellectual disabilities existed. Children were deemed unteachable and most were consigned to asylums to live out the rest of their lives.
- Access to a job and the independence of earning a living is considered a basic human right worldwide under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities.