By Kathleen Holmes Cates / Interim CEO/President, LifeROOTS, Inc as posted in the Albuquerque Journal on October 20, 2011
With October marking the annual celebration of National Disability Employment Awareness Month, our nation’s attention has once again turned toward the important role that people with disabilities can, and should, have in today’s workplace.
The heightened awareness that this designated month brings is an important start in educating the public about the value of hiring people with disabilities; however, the issue of disability employment is something that is not only to be recognized each year in October, but to be recognized by companies and organizations year-round – with more of our local businesses truly recognizing how hiring people with disabilities not only can enhance the lives of people with disabilities, but also can enhance the bottom line of their business.
Hiring people with disabilities makes sense for so many reasons.
First and foremost, supporting a community of people who are an integral part of our community – and giving them the same opportunities as everyone else – is just, simply, the right thing to do. People with disabilities pay taxes, they volunteer in the communities in which they live and, most important, they want to work.
Not only do they want to work, but they do their work exceptionally well – with studies showing that 90 percent of people with disabilities rated average or better on job performance, 98 percent of employees with disabilities rated average or better in work safety … and 86 percent of people with disabilities rated average or better on attendance.
Most successful business owners and managers have realized that diversity in the workplace has increased their visibility, sustainability and economic growth. I am asking business owners and managers not to forget that individuals with disabilities are an intricate part of that diversity.
Most individuals with disabilities can maintain competitive employment with only a few reasonable accommodations from their employer. Some individuals may need more intensive support. There are many not-for-profits that can help supply that support so that the employer can focus on the tasks being accomplished.
When businesses hire people with disabilities, everyone wins.
Businesses tap into a pool of highly motivated, skilled and hardworking employees with the highest quality of workmanship in mind. Company morale goes up – with studies showing that employing people with disabilities has a distinct, positive effect on staff morale. Most important, people with disabilities get the opportunity to not only secure an income, but to foster their independence, gain a vital social network – and feel a true sense of happiness and “belonging” as they work in meaningful, productive jobs within the community.
Let’s continue to raise awareness about the benefits of employing people with disabilities in the months, and years, ahead – and continue to benefit from the skills, talent, and dedication, that people with disabilities can bring to the workplace.