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Inclusion Drives Disability Employment Awareness



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When visiting locations from Newtown’s municipal and school facilities to local grocery stores and other retail or service establishments, chances are you will see and meet persons with disabilities, whether the disability is immediately evident or imperceptible. It is good to see these individuals working side-by-side with their peers, being embraced as an equal and valued part of their workplace team.

With October recognized as National Disability Employment Awareness Month, let us take an opportunity to not only remind business owners and employers of the added value employees with disabilities bring to the workforce, but also encourage patrons of businesses who hire those with disabilities to acknowledge that it is part of the reason why you are their customer.

According to The Kennedy Center, a statewide human services agency supporting more than 700 individuals who make important contributions to their employers and communities every day, National Disability Employment Awareness Month traces back to 1945 when Congress enacted a law declaring the first week in October each year National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week.

In 1962, the word “physically” was removed to acknowledge the employment needs and contributions of individuals with all types of disabilities. And in 1988, Congress expanded the observation from one week to a full month and changed the name to National Disability Employment Awareness Month.

This year’s theme is “America’s Recovery: Powered by Inclusion.” US Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh kicked off October reminding employers that our national recovery from the pandemic cannot be completed without the inclusion of all Americans, in particular people with disabilities. We share his enthusiasm when Walsh says our nation must build an economy that fully includes the talent and drive of those with disabilities.

Jane Davis, CEO of Ability Beyond — another local agency that trained more than 1,000 folks with disabilities for the workforce last year — rightly states that the number of US businesses making it a corporate priority to hire people with disabilities is on the rise.

That is because, as she points out, savvy businesses keenly understand that recruiting highly trained and dedicated people with disabilities is among the smartest hiring strategies. Davis says employers working with her agency see higher retention rates, a 53% higher rate of self-identification, significantly decreased time in filling key positions, and a greater range of diversity within disability, including 21% veterans with disabilities.

Hiring people with disabilities is easy to do when the appropriate support is provided through training and placement agencies; and The Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation has found that nine out of ten people would rather do business with companies that hire people with disabilities.

Davis also observes that these same individuals can bring unique problem-solving abilities to the table, in part because they are accustomed to having to figure out innovative ways to do things differently to accommodate their own ability.

Given this overwhelming evidence, it does not make sense for any Newtown employer to disregard or dismiss an opportunity to at least consider, if not enthusiastically seek, to include persons with disabilities as part of their workforce, as Bee Publishing Company has done for years with gratifying results.

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