Rick Alcantara | The Arc of Centre County
October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). It is a time when we remind ourselves of the importance of living ones best life. For people with disabilities this is still a struggle, especially in the area of employment. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics the unemployment rate (2018) for someone with a disability was 8.0% compared to that of someone without a disability at 3.7%.
This year the NDEAM theme is “The Right Talent, Right Now”. This year’s theme challenges us to change our mindset on how we perceive people with disabilities and their access to meaningful integrated employment in the community. For too long the focus has been on misconceptions and societal stigma about the disabled in the job market. However, we are steadily rewriting the narrative to focus on the importance of inclusion, integration and diversity in the workplace. The theme “The Right Talent, Right Now”, could apply to any of us, and isn’t that the point? Focusing on the value and talents of all people results in seeing everyone for the best that they bring to the workforce.
Let me tell you about “Able”. Able is almost 40 years old. He was given multiple diagnosis resulting in never having a job in the community. He spent all of his adult life learning job skills and working for subminimum wage with others like him. However, Able had a dream for himself. He wanted a job in the community. Thanks to the passing of person-centered legislation such as the Employment First Policy and the implementation of innovative programs called the Discovery Profile and Customized Job Development, Able’s dream came true. He was offered a job as a houseman at a local hotel last August. These programs uncovered his interests, strengths and talents and matched them to a local employer who was willing to think outside of the box and create a position based on his skills that also matched the needs at the hotel property.
While Able’s story is becoming more common some employers might still ask is it worth taking a chance on someone like Able? I would ask, why not? This October we celebrate the people with disabilities who can and want to work, the people that support them and the employers willing to take a chance and focus on the right talent, right now.
For more information on National Disability Employment Awareness Month: https://www.dol.gov/odep/topics/ndeam/
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