By James Scutt
Each year on December 3, the United Nations (UN) celebrates International Day of Persons with Disabilities to highlight the rights and well-being of all people, regardless of their abilities. The World Health Organization (WHO) joins the UN in observing this day each year, to reinforce the importance of supporting and embracing the right of all individuals to participate equally with others in all aspects of society.
The reality is that too many individuals with disabilities are unable to secure and maintain competitive employment. That is why NYS Adult Career and Continuing Education Services-Rehabilitation (ACCES-VR) and other programs with the same goal have forged partnerships with nonprofits like People Inc. to address this important need. With a year-round focus, ACCES-VR raises community awareness regarding disability issues while celebrating the unique and varied talents and contributions of these individuals by highlighting the positive impact of inclusion and diversity in the workplace and our economy. Sadly, this group of job seekers in New York state is impacted by a nearly 70% unemployment rate, which is twice the rate of job seekers without disabilities.
Individuals with disabilities begin engaging in programs early on in their schooling that help them gain the skills necessary for independence that prepares them for employment. This often requires both classroom education and supportive vocational services through community agencies. Working together, the school, a care coordinator, and vocational program staff assess the interests, needs, strengths, and abilities of disabled students to identify appropriate opportunities for internships, job shadowing, and eventual employment. After graduation, or aging out of school at age 21, various programs help these individuals continue with their search for vocational and career opportunities, job development, job placement, and on-site training. Many of these agencies excel in their ability to create opportunities that are often unavailable in traditional locations. Such jobs are competitive, integrated, and provide real wages to the people supported by these agencies.
There is currently an ongoing need for more organizations and businesses of any size to open their doors to provide more opportunities for individuals with disabilities to work in meaningful jobs. The agencies who work with potential employers explain how the program works. Often, this includes having an employment specialist or job coach work with the person with a disability to provide training and coaching, while serving as a liaison to the employer in tackling any challenges.
Hiring a qualified person with a disability brings greater benefits beyond just filling an open job. It often means increased productivity, an enhanced inclusive and diverse corporate culture, and dedicated, loyal and efficient employees. People of all abilities deserve the chance and right to equal employment opportunities that benefit us all.
Since 1986, People Inc. has been providing vocational preparation to people with developmental and other disabilities in partnership with area businesses and other community partners. The organization is particularly grateful for the support it receives from area high schools and more than 150 establishments. To learn more, visit www.people-inc.org, or call 716-817-5753.
James Scutt is Associate Vice President of Vocational Services at People Inc.