October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month and the Administration for Community Living or ACL is marking the occasion with reflection and meditation on future efforts that must be made. ACL has long been known to champion the efforts of Inclusive Employment not just in words but also in actions, having a robust staff of both disabled and non- disabled employees. This month more than usual, however, they mourn the fact that this is not typical. ‘The latest data from the Employment Policy and Measurement Rehabilitation and Research Training Center indicates that 33 percent of working-age people with disabilities participate in the labor force, compared to 77 percent of their peers without disabilities.’ ACL is quick to remind everyone that when people with disabilities cannot work, the impact is profound. Everyone misses out: potential employees, potential employers, and communities at large suffer from this loss of potential.
‘At ACL we are working with our partners across federal government, with states and communities, and with people with disabilities to identify – and then demolish – the obstacles that keep people with disabilities out of the workforce.’ These obstacles, ACL notes, are usually misconceptions held by employers. The skills of disabled employees are often highly underestimated and the cost of accommodations needed are often highly overestimated. The providing of reasonable accommodations is thought to be potentially overbearing when in reality, a ‘survey of employers found that nearly 60% of accommodations cost nothing at all, and the rest had an average cost of $500.’ ACL remains committed to correcting these public misconceptions that are preventing more people with disabilities from gaining meaningful and fulfilling employment. They are working hard to advance and promote an ‘Employment First’ approach within their organization, the goal of which is ‘increasing expectations – both for people with disabilities and for our systems that help them access the opportunities they need to succeed.’
Both in this letter and in their work, ACL reminds us that the practice of National Disability Employment Awareness Month should not be limited to the month of October, but rather should be a yearlong pursuit. ‘Our country and our economy can’t afford to overlook the potential that people with disabilities represent.’
To Read ACL’s full statement or learn more about their work, click Here: