National Disability Employment Awareness Month was in October and the theme was “My Disability is One Part of Who I Am I.”
The purpose of NDEAM is to educate the public, and especially businesses, about disability employment issues while celebrating the many and varied contributions of America’s workers with disabilities.
More people with different levels of abilities are choosing to look for meaningful work – either through volunteering and/or a paid job. With our environment more accessible due to the ADA and technology expanding, there really are no limits, but we still have a ways to go. According to a 2013 survey including more than 100,000 Americans conducted by the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, 16.6% of unemployed Americans are depressed compared to 5.6% of those who work full time. Work means so much to us Americans that without it some people don’t want to get out of bed in the morning.
We all want to have purpose in our lives; employment is one option, but there are still some barriers. Two fellow advocates are doing a GREAT job in creating awareness, educating and motivating other wheelchair users to go for it, go beyond expectations, Gary Karp and Dr. Alette Coble-Temple.
Gary Karp is a well-known speaker, trainer and writer in the disability community. His latest disability awareness card (see all of them here http://garykarpspeaks.com/modern-disability-cards.) featured a young man with the quote “”Hire me into a job for which I’m fully qualified… Give me the settings and tools I need… And I promise, I will knock it outta the park.” which is so true. With the right environment, education and equipment, we can do anything a “walker” can! Gary has gone a step further and has even developed education/training for businesses on how to be more inclusive.
The current Ms. Wheelchair America 2016, Dr. Alette Coble-Temple is a professor of clinical psychology at John F. Kennedy University. Her Facebook posts in October were all focused on employment with a disability, from work reform laws so people with disabilities can work without fear of losing funding for personal care assistance; to 58% of workplace accommodations costing $0; to the need for more access/funding for college and more workplace policies and procedures related to hiring and retaining employees with disabilities.
My favorite tip from her was “Begin having managers and supervisors ask all employees what would help to increase productivity; having this as a standard question in the workplace invites discussion on reasonable accommodations. If an employee does not what accommodations would help them, seek permission from the employee to consult with outside individuals. Remember to think outside the box and exercise creativity.”
As we, users of wheeled mobility, continue to fight for our right to live our lives and it is great to see other wheelchair users living successful, meaningful lives. We can learn from them and be motivated to go beyond even our own expectations.