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America’s Recovery: Powered By Inclusion

National Disability Employment Awareness Month

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). According to the Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP), this year’s campaign is focused on “ensuring that people with disabilities have full access to employment and community involvement during the national recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.” 

In August, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) revealed the unemployment rate for those with disabilities is currently at 10.9%. The same data revealed the unemployment rate for those without a disability is 5.0% – this means someone without a disability is currently TWICE as likely to be unemployed right now in America. 

NOW is the time to change the narrative and statistics surrounding unemployment for those with disabilities. According to ODEP, some misconceptions about hiring someone with a disability include: people with disabilities are unqualified, a business will have to spend more on training and accommodations, people with disabilities don’t want to work, and people with disabilities will be difficult to communicate with in the workplace. Educators, legislators (local, state, and federal), parents, and advocates can all work together to eliminate these misconceptions – and highlight the many benefits of hiring someone with a disability.

The Benefits of Hiring Someone With a Disability

Many of those with disabilities are eager to learn, work hard, and earn a paycheck. Data from the 2020 Center for Financial Planning Report shows that those with disabilities are often more loyal to their workplace than those without a disability. This loyalty leads to overall better job satisfaction, less money spent on recruitment, and greater profits for the company as a whole. Due to the high cost and time-consuming nature of recruiting, hiring, and training new employees – maintaining employees should be important to every company. A 2018 report from the DOL states, “employees who supported those with disabilities saw a 90% increase in employee retention. That is because offering reasonable accommodations is often significantly less costly than firing workers.” 

An employee with a disability may need an accommodation in order to perform tasks in the most efficient way possible. Accommodations in the workplace may include specialized equipment and  modifications to the work environment or adjustments to work schedules and/or responsibilities. Not everyone with a disability will need an accommodation, and the accommodations that are needed will vary from person-to-person. Examples of accommodations may include: text on a website that can be read aloud for someone who is blind, video tutorials with captions for someone who is deaf, and allowing someone with diabetes regularly scheduled breaks to monitor blood sugar levels. In many cases – making the work environment more accessible for someone with a disability is beneficial to all who are in that work environment. Presenting training in various ways and making modifications to an office to allow for more space could benefit all ALL – whether one has a disability or not. The idea of making a workplace (or any environment) accessible to all is known as “universal design”. In an environment where employees and customers have a wide range of needs – creating a workplace where everyone can be successful is likely to allow employees to stay at the business, and customers to return. 

Another benefit in hiring someone with a disability is that it teaches employees and customers with and without disabilities important communication, teamwork, and leadership skills. In some cases – a person with a disability may not have much experience working alongside others (with or without a disability) in a work environment. This experience is likely to grow this person’s skills and confidence. A person without a disability can benefit in a similar way – communicating with someone with a disability (whether as an employee or customer), can cause one’s misconceptions about disabilities to be shattered, and they can become an advocate themselves. Bitty and Beau’s coffee is a business in Melrose, MA and run by people with developmental and intellectual disabilities. Amy Wright, who opened the coffee shop with her husband five years ago said in a recent article for WCVB Boston, “I think when you come into a coffee shop, our coffee shop, and see what they are capable of, you can’t unsee that. And then you go back into the world and start seeing people with disabilities differently.”

Eliminating the misconceptions, and showcasing the benefits of hiring someone who has a disability will further make our society more inclusive.

[Photo credit: Bitty & Beau’s Coffee website]

Choose Businesses That Hire (Or Are Owned) By People With Disabilities

One action YOU can take to help showcase the importance of hiring people with disabilities is by shopping/getting services from businesses that have a reputation for hiring people with disabilities, or are owned by someone who has a disability. 

Market Basket, Canobie Lake Park (Salem, NH), and CVS are just a few businesses in our local region with a reputation for hiring – and keeping employees with a disability. Forrest Barnes, who manages Heav’nly Donuts in Windham, is committed to hiring people of all abilities and believes in “giving people with disabilities equal opportunities to be successful”. He said this means hiring, valuing, and giving a paycheck to each person who helps out. “If you go in to perform a function, you should be compensated for it. Workers with a disability deserve more than just a pat on the back….Making money helps motivate them,” Forrest said. 

[Mikayla loves working at Heav’nly Donuts! Educating the community, overcoming fears, and becoming an advocate for herself have led her to finding valuable employment.]

Fresh AF Bakeshop (Kingston, NH), Chloe’s Shred Shed (Mont Vernon, NH), and Kayla Snover Studio (Boston, MA) are just a few businesses near YOU that are owned by someone with a disability, or someone who has a disability has played a major part in making the business possible. Stay tuned to our website and social media pages to be the first to read our upcoming blog post where we will feature a variety of the businesses owned by someone who has a disability. If you know of a disability-friendly business – email it to Colby Dudal at cdudal@communitycrossroadsnh.org and we will recognize it in a future blog.  

Making the effort to support disability-owned businesses – as well as showcasing the many benefits of hiring someone with a disability, and electing legislators on a local, state, and federal level that will advocate for laws related to employment for those with disabilities will help our nation become more inclusive than ever!

 

 

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