By Kathleen Pignone, M.Ed., CRC
It feels like every day is a National soup or sandwich day or Taco Tuesday. So much that national recognition months are getting lost in the shuffle. National Disability Employment Awareness Month was declared in 1988 by the United States Congress for October to raise awareness of the employment needs and contributions of individuals with all types of disabilities. The purpose of National Disability Employment Awareness Month is to educate about disability employment issues and celebrate the many and varied contributions of America’s workers with disabilities. This year’s theme is “America’s Workforce: Empowering All”
“Americans of all abilities must have access to good, safe jobs,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta. “Smart employers know that including different perspectives in problem-solving situations leads to better solutions. Hiring employees with diverse abilities strengthens their business, increases competition and drives innovation.”
Why does it matter? Why recognize a small group of the population? Because they are a valuable resource. Because they deserve a reframe from being disenfranchised to being seen as an asset. In 2017, 18.7 percent of persons with a disability were employed, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. In contrast, the employment-population ratio for those without a disability was 65.7 percent. The employment-population ratios for both persons with and without a disability increased from 2016 to 2017.
The Office of Disability Employment Policy under the US Department of Labor offers so many resources for employers and employees. They offer free curriculum on teaching soft skills so all young people regardless of ability can not only get jobs, but keep jobs. They offer public service campaigns that promote the benefits of employing those who regardless of disability or diagnosis offer something to an employer. They propose the question, “What can YOU do?” They give examples of what employees with disabilities can do!
“I can solve difficult problems for a Fortune 500 company.” Says Bob an executive from Google who has bipolar disorder.
“I can manage your home improvements.” Says Michael a landscaper and carpenter who has an intellectual disability.
“I can run a successful business.” Says Patty who co-owns and manages a grocery store and has paraplegia.
These are just a few examples of the valuable contributions that many people with disabilities can offer.
As each day passes and it is National Dessert Day and you want to roll your eyes and minimize a special day or month. Please pause and remember that some of these national recognitions may be a valuable opportunity to celebrate pride and difference in a positive way.
If you are interested in supporting National Disability awareness month please feel free to visit the ODEP website and find several ways to positively support those who are capable and desiring employment, but may be overlooked.
About the Author:
Kathleen Pignone, M.Ed. CRC is a deeply knowledgeable and experienced transition specialist. Prior to her tenure at NESCA, Ms. Pignone was the Career Development Director at Bay Cove Academy for 15 years, providing students with classroom and real-world employment skills training, community job placement and on the job employment-training. She has also worked at Massachusetts Department of Secondary and Elementary Education and privately as a vocational rehabilitation consultant. As a certified rehabilitation counselor, Ms. Pignone brings unique expertise carrying out vocational assessment and employment planning for adolescents and young adults as well as supporting local school programs. In addition to fortifying NESCA’s premier transition assessment services, Ms. Pignone engages in person-centered planning with teens and young adults, consultation and training for parents, providers and schools, and community-based coaching services.
To book an assessment or consultation with Kathleen, please complete NESCA’s online intake form.