Remember how empowered you felt when you first received your working papers? Or how independent you felt walking into work on your first official day? Or how confident you felt when you got positive feedback from your first boss? Or how exciting it was when your supervisor handed you that very first paycheck?
Although the emotions surrounding these experiences may wane as years go on and the novelty of working inevitably wears off a bit, securing gainful employment continues to foster self-confidence, a sense of purpose, and financial independence – no matter how long we’ve been in the workforce. And for people with disabilities, it’s no different.
Not only do we have countless anecdotal examples to illustrate the rewards of hiring people with disabilities, but research points to many advantages as well. According to an article published in in the US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (February, 2018) called A Systematic Review of the Benefits of Hiring People with Disabilities (Lindsay, Cagliostro, Albarico, Mortaji, Karon), “benefits of hiring people with disabilities included improvements in profitability, (e.g. profits and cost-effectiveness, turnover and retention, reliability and punctuality, employee loyalty, company image), competitive advantage (e.g., diverse customers, customer loyalty and satisfaction, innovation, productivity, work ethic, safety), inclusive work culture, and ability awareness. Secondary benefits for people with disabilities included improved quality of life and income, enhanced self-confidence, expanded social network, and a sense of community.”
In 1945, Congress enacted legislation that made the first week in October each year “National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week.” By 1962, it was clear that ‘physically’ should be removed so as to include all people with disabilities. In 1988, by renaming October “National Disability Employment Awareness Month,” Congress acknowledged the vital role this entire population has in our workforce – and their well-deserved rights to experience employment.
Local agencies like ours work tirelessly every day to partner with dozens of Hudson Valley businesses and organizations who understand the value-add that an employee with a disability brings. Many area nonprofits, like us, offer vocational training and job coaching programs, all designed to maximize success and provide opportunities for people with special needs. Time and again, we hear from employers that these employees are among their most dedicated, loyal, and productive members of the team. Their colleagues often report feeling more connected to their employers as a result of working alongside someone with a disability; cultivating the strengths of that person increases morale for everyone in the workplace.
As we all celebrate National Disability Employment Awareness Month, we ask our community to embrace opportunities to work with people who have special needs. They will undoubtedly make a special impact on your business and on everyone with whom they work.