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October Is National Disability Employment Awareness Month
Held each October, Disability Employment Awareness Month is a national campaign that raises awareness about disability employment issues. The opportunity to earn a living and be self-supporting is a broadly held goal by Americans. Work is a foundation of stability for individuals and can give one’s life meaning and purpose. Unfortunately, the rate and level of employment for people with disabilities is staggeringly low. Labor force participation is 22% for people with disabilities as compared to 69% for people without disabilities.
Disability employment is undoubtedly complex, and a variety of factors impact successful work outcomes for people with disabilities. These factors include the nature of disability, education level, prior work experience, family and social supports, availability and effectiveness of vocational rehabilitation programs, health care coverage, social security benefits and a number of other public policy factors that involve work incentives. How these factors fit in with structural changes in the economy also matters.
While most of these factors are out of employers’ control, employers can develop and implement workplace policies and practices that foster employment opportunities and increase workplace participation for people with disabilities, such as:
- Developing recruiting methods and advertising job positions that target people with disabilities
- Reviewing job requirements (e.g. job descriptions, job analyses, tests, or other selection criteria) to verify that they are consistent with business necessity, actual job demands, and do not disparately impact people with disabilities
- Establishing a structured process for accommodations and providing access to a full range of information on accommodation options
- Providing training for managers and human resource professionals
- Establishing centralized accommodations funds so that costs are not a burden on local budgets
- Providing flextime and telecommuting options to employees
- Ensuring that electronic and information technology is usable and accessible to people with disabilities
Employers can also utilize disability employment resources, including:
- Georgia Vocational Rehabilitation Agency (GVRA)
- Job Accommodation Network
- Cornell University Employment and Disability Institute
- U.S. Department of Labor — Office of Disability Employment Policy
- What Can You Do? The Campaign for Disability Employment
- Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services — Disability Employment 101
The clearly stated goals of the Americans with Disabilities Act are equal opportunity, independent living, full participation and economic self-sufficiency. Bringing people into the employment mainstream is integral to fully realizing these goals.
About the Author
Mike Galifianakis is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Coordinator for the State of Georgia. The ADA Coordinator’s Office works with state agencies to promote full and equal access to state government programs, services and activities for persons with disabilities.