October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), and all members of United Spinal Association are encouraged to participate. The purpose of NDEAM is to educate about disability employment issues and celebrate the many and varied contributions of America’s workers with disabilities.
Held annually, NDEAM is led by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy, but its true spirit lies in the many observances held at the grassroots level across the nation every year. Employers of all sizes and in all industries are encouraged to participate in National Disability Employment Awareness Month. This year’s theme is “My disability is one part of who I am.”
For specific ideas about how you can support NDEAM, visit www.dol.gov/ndeam. Suggestions range from simple, such as putting up a poster, to comprehensive, such as implementing a disability education program. Regardless, all play an important part in fostering a more inclusive workforce, one where every person is recognized for his or her abilities — every day of every month.
United Spinal remains committed to an inclusive work culture and want to spread the important message that we value diverse perspectives, including those of individuals with disabilities.
Creating New Pathways to Employment
As part of a Craig H. Neilsen Foundation multi-year Quality of Life Grant, United Spinal is working with its partners on the Pathways to Employment (PTE) program to help with improved recruitment and hiring of people with disabilities. The PTE program has been launched in our Pittsburgh and Rochester chapters in collaboration with our current peer mentoring program. We will also be adding a New Jersey location next year.
Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data from 2013 showed a workforce participation rate of 31.6% for working age people with disabilities in 2012, compared with 76.5% of working age individuals without disabilities and the Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy, as of September 2015, states that the unemployment rate for people with disabilities is 10.4% vs. 4.7% for people without disabilities.
The Pathways to Employment Program is designed to support individuals who have sustained spinal cord injuries (SCI) in pursuing new job opportunities by providing access to resources and information. United Spinal will match individuals with a trained peer mentor who has also sustained an SCI and has successfully navigated the path to employment. The PTE program will provide the opportunity to:
- Interact with someone who has adjusted to working with a disability
- Gain practical information on resources, benefits and work incentive programs
- Develop an employment plan
- Prepare for job interviews
- Learn self-advocacy skills
- Acquire reasonable accommodation
Working Directly with Employers
A couple of times a year, United Spinal meets in Washington, DC with our corporate partners to discuss the challenges facing people with disabilities, including unemployment and how they can help make a difference. We are actively engaging employers to provide more opportunities for people with disabilities seeking employment.
Our goal, today, is to urge employers to acquire a source and a plan for hiring people with disabilities to help meet the requirements of the Rehabilitation Act; find employees with disabilities to hire who want to work, are prepared to work and have support from a mentor; and gain practical information on resources, benefits, and available work incentive programs. The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in programs run by federal agencies; programs that receive federal financial assistance; in federal employment; and in the employment practices of federal contractors.
Fighting for Equal Rights
United Spinal lobbied hard and won in ensuring that workers with disabilities making less than minimum wage under Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act were included in President Obama’s 2014 Executive Order to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 for all workers on Federal construction and service contracts.
We are working to ensure improvements are made to the Ability One Program–– a Federal initiative to help people who are blind or have other significant disabilities find employment by working with a national network of over 600 nonprofit agencies that sell products and services to the U.S. government.
United Spinal is also in ongoing dialogue with the National Industry Liaison Group (NILG), a premier employer association on affirmative action and equal employment opportunity regarding the recruitment of people with disabilities into the workforce.
Know Your Rights
The new Section 503 regulations of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 became effective on March 24, 2014. Section 503 prohibits federal contractors and subcontractors from discriminating in employment against individuals with disabilities, and requires these employers to establish affirmative action plans to recruit, hire, promote, and retain these individuals. The new rule establishes a nationwide 7% recruitment goal for qualified people with disabilities and strengthens the nondiscrimination provisions of the regulations to bring them into compliance with the ADA Amendments Act of 2008.