Vermont Governor’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities Partners
with National Campaign for Disability Employment, “What can YOU do?” Initiative
Contributed by Melita DeBellis, GCEPD Executive Coordinator
Abilities Newsletter, July 2012, Volume 6, Issue 12
We know that people with disabilities are successful in the workplace because of what they CAN do.
Every day, people with disabilities can – and do – add value to workplaces in Vermont and across the United States. Their talent is the investment that drives innovation. The knowledge, skills and abilities they bring to work each day are the assets that positively impact businesses of all sizes and in all industries, both financially and organizationally.
Employees with disabilities:
- Have talent
- Help businesses gain a competitive edge through innovative thinking
- Mirror an important and increasingly expanding customer base
- Are experienced problem solvers with a proven ability to adapt
- Value and want to work
We also know that people with disabilities are vastly underrepresented as part of the workforce. In both good and bad economic times, people with disabilities have far fewer job opportunities than the general population. Indeed, during the first quarter of 2012, “the unemployment rate for people with disabilities climbed back above 14 percent after dropping significantly at the end of 2011.” This is according to a study by Allsup, a nationwide provider of Social Security disability representation and Medicare plan selection services, and referenced in Disabled World, http://www.disabled-world.com/disability/employment/rising.php. The article continues by saying that “people with disabilities experienced an unemployment rate nearly 74 percent higher than the rate for people with no disability during that same quarter.”
Why is this so? Many factors have an impact, ranging from the practical (transportation issues) – to the medical – to the intangible (fears and lack of information).
That’s why Vermont’s Governor’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities (GCEPD) is beginning a partnership with the national Campaign for Disability Employment (CDE) to broaden the conversation about how Vermonters can work together to increase the employment of people with disabilities in the state. The CDE’s “What can YOU do?” initiative – WhatCanYouDoCampaign.org– is a national public education effort designed to increase the employment of people with disabilities. Its goal – and the mission of the GCEPD – is to promote the hiring, retention, and advancement of people with disabilities and to dispel negative stereotypes about disability and employment.
The CDE seeks to achieve these outcomes “by encouraging employers and others to recognize the value and talent that people with disabilities bring to the workplace, as well as the dividend to be realized by fully including people with disabilities at work.” At work, for each and every employee, it’s what people CAN do that matters.
Why should this matter to you? Because as Saint Michael’s College Instructor of Philosophy Patrick Standen (also the co-founder and president of the Northeast Disabled Athletic Association) discussed as our keynote presenter at the GCEPD’s “The Art of Possibility – Living and Working with a Disability” symposium, “disability happens – to everyone.” It is in the self-interest of each of us to broaden the workplace as much as possible to include people with disabilities because according to the insurance industry, people under 35 have a 1 in 3 chance of becoming disabled. By age 42 that rate rises to 40%
Paraphrasing Patrick, you or I may not have a physical or perceptual disability now but odds are we will – perhaps not to an alarming level but disability is a reality of aging and part of living in an industrial society. We acquire disability in a variety of ways – at birth, through a catastrophic accident, due to a genetic load that expresses itself later on, and through general aging. Therefore, it’s in each of our best interests to make the world a better place, because after we become disabled, each of us will still want to get up, go to work, go out, pay our bills, and integrate fully with society.
Disability is part of the natural diversity of life and touches us all – through our own experience or that of a family member, friend, or colleague. We all have a role in – and benefit to gain from – advancing equality for people with disabilities in all sectors of society. As the Campaign for Disability Employment points out, people move in and out of disability throughout their lives. Therefore, universal strategies that consider the needs of all employees will help ensure the widest pool of talent. Good workplace policies and practices for people with disabilities benefit everyone and make good business sense.
In the months ahead, the GCEPD will be unveiling resources and notable employment practices on our website. We invite you to follow our activities by going to www.hireus.org. Meanwhile, take a moment to consider what YOU can do to support the employment of people with disabilities in Vermont. Here are some options:
- Take advantage of the menu of progressive employment options offered by the Creative Workforce Solutions group in your area; (Your local CWS representative can be found here: http://www.cwsvt.com/about-us/contact-us.html
- Utilize the services of one of the many noteworthy organizations in your area that work directly with individuals with disabilities and consider their candidates for employment
- Learn best practices from other employers that employ a diverse workforce
- Showcase your disability and diversity hiring practices in your annual report
- Take advantage of the resources of the national Job Accommodation Network (www.askjan.org)
- Host a GCEPD-led panel of experts discussing workplace accommodations
- Patronize one of the many Vermont employers that have won a Governor’s Award for their disability employment practices (See this newsletter at http://www.hireus.org/Governorsawards)
People with disabilities are successful at work because of what they CAN do. However, when it comes to increasing the employment of people with disabilities in Vermont, what also matters is what each of US – as employers and citizens of Vermont – does.