October: Celebrating National Disability Employment Awareness Month
Hello October. A month of crispy golden leaves scattered across sidewalks, gourds and ghouls decorating porches and horror films creeping through our Netflix recommendations.
It’s also a very important time because it’s a month that the government has set aside to do something we should be doing all year round: celebrating a workforce that’s rich with people of all abilities and raising awareness of how important it is to ensure that all people with disabilities have opportunities for integrated employment.
This year’s National Disability Employment Awareness Month theme is “America’s Workforce: Empowering All”. Best Buddies — the organization that the MTeam supports through fundraising efforts and participation in the Best Buddies Challenge each year — shines in this area for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Did you know that 81% of adults with developmental disabilities do not have a paid job in the community? The Best Buddies Jobs program is growing, with over 1,000 capable, talented and driven Best Buddies participants in jobs that match their skills, talents and interests. They’re paying taxes, spending an average of 22 hours per week on the job and earning an income at an average of $12.28 per hour, which tops the minimum wage in many US cities.
Best Buddies’ examples (like the story of Michael Dykman & Genentech) show that employers who hire individuals with IDD benefit just as much as our participants. "Smart employers know that including different perspectives in problem-solving situations leads to better solutions,” U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta said. “Hiring employees with diverse abilities strengthens their business, increases competition and drives innovation."
The MTeam’s biggest sponsor, CAPA The Global Education Network, is one of many employers benefitting from the Best Buddies Jobs program and we endorse it fully.
“Diversity and inclusion has always been an important personal value,” said CAPA The Global Education Network CEO and MTeam Captain John Christian. “No matter how a student identifies, CAPA’s mission is to give as many students as possible the opportunity to study abroad because we know that affects the world positively. Best Buddies does something very similar. They give people with IDD employment opportunities. They spread awareness so that everyone has a seat at the table. The more we are around people who are different than us, the more accustomed we become, the less afraid we are, the more connections we can make. This is how we make the world a better place.”
There’s a great read from Meriah Nichols called “Why Hire Someone With A Disability” written from her perspective as a a career counselor and member of the disability community. She talks about everything from the number of people with a disability who have a strong resume to the “out-of-the-box” thinking mentality that many people who were born with disabilities have cultivated over the years to the richness that diversity brings to the workplace.
And while there’s progress and there’s much to celebrate, there’s still a lot of work to be done in this area, to open up opportunities that will benefit both the disability community and the employers who are open-minded and intelligent enough to welcome them on board.
Will you join us?