A statewide employment conference in September, just ahead of National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), WORKING Together united more than 300 people with an interest in expanding employment options for people with disabilities. There, speakers from outside Ohio made it clearer than ever that our state is several steps ahead of many others, due in part to strong support from the top – with Governor John Kasich and his administration leading the charge on the Employment First initiative, and keeping the subject high on their radar. The event’s morning keynote speaker on customized employment, Katie Wolf Whaley, with the University of Kentucky Human Development Institute, noted:
We in Kentucky are envious of you in Ohio, with the awesome resources you are putting forward and the lead you are taking — because employment matters! It matters a lot, and to everyone. That’s how people identify themselves.”
Describing customized employment as a natural next step for the national DD service system to take in helping people find work that they like and are suited to doing, she remarked, “We have to listen to people and observe – what makes them enthusiastic? What have we missed before, when talking with someone about jobs?”
In a new approach to promoting NDEAM in local communities, the U.S. Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) recommends ideas for each week in October — including helping employers to launch disability Employee Resource Groups (ERGs). Sometimes referred to as Employee Networks or Affinity Groups, ERGs offer employees an opportunity to connect to and receive support from others with similar backgrounds or interests. Information about ERGs includes A Toolkit for Establishing and Maintaining Successful Employee Resource Groups. The U.S. Department of Labor Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) website offers many other ideas for ways to celebrate local successes and to pave the way for more.
Employment Success Stories
Send your employment success stories to Sherry Steinman at firstname.lastname@example.org for consideration in a future Pipeline. Please provide a short paragraph, a link for more information, and a photo.
A great national employment story was shared by Belmont County Board of DD Communications Coordinator Pamela McCort. She explained, “I found this video about Walgreens’ commitment to hiring people with disabilities (www.youtube.com/watch?v=HeUQuuI_p7w ). It is a presentation by Randy Lewis, Senior VP at Walgreens. He ties mission, meaning, and the benefits of hiring people with disabilities together beautifully.”
And, Richland County Director of Community Relations Jane Imbody sent along this billboard, now posted along the roadways in the Richland/Newhope service area, supporting the NDEAM theme:
In 1945, the U.S. Congress declared the first week in October National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week. In 1962, the word “physically” was removed to acknowledge the employment needs and contributions of individuals with all types of disabilities. And, in 1988, Congress expanded the week to a month, and changed the name to National Disability Employment Awareness Month.
Related resources are at the Employment First website and at U.S. Department of Labor Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) website.