Online Originals: October celebrates National Disability Employment Awareness Month

Online Originals

The month of October is dedicated to many important causes.

One of those is National Disability Employment Awareness.

Its goal is to shed light on those who are disabled with a 2019 theme of “The Right Talent, Right Now.”

As of 2018, 19% of employed Americans have some form of disability, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This leaves the rest of the jobs to those who don’t suffer from a disability.

Tommy Cloyd is an Independent Living Coordinator at Greenville’s Disability Advocates and Resource Center. Cloyd lives with cerebral palsy spastic diplegia and uses his story to help relate to the people that he works with.

Greenville’s Disability Advocates and Resource Center.

“I just had a big desire to help people,” said Cloyd. I know what it was like growing up without help. I didn’t have the ADA (Americans with Disability Act), I didn’t have a center, I had no support where I’m from. It was a big deal for me to come here and help others. I personally would be glad to help anyone that wants to move forward. Get a job, go to school, what have you. There is help available, but you have to seek it out. You have to be open to it, you have to be willing to accept the help. Don’t give up.”

Tommy Cloyd working at his desk.

Like Cloyd, his colleague Justin Rouse enjoys the field of work he’s in, and though he doesn’t have a disability himself, Rouse is a strong advocate for hiring those with disabilities.

Although Rouse’s current job works on helping people with disabilities live independently, he has previous experience working at another center where he helped disabled adults find jobs for seven years.

Justin says that the main complaints he’s heard from disabled job seekers are a lack of preparedness for the job interview process.

“People are not interview ready; they just are not,” explained Rouse. They don’t know what goes into that. How to dress, what to say, you know. They get nervous, which is very understandable because, in my opinion, everybody gets nervous. The owners and the managers and everybody around the community need to have a more open mind. Because if they don’t, you’re going to be stuck in the same rut that you’re in. A lot of people don’t realize that a lot of times people with disabilities have way more successful job rates and job retention rates than people that do not have disabilities.” 

When it comes to the job search, disability youth coordinator Gwennetta Reid stresses the importance of making sure people see their strengths.

She says when working with disabled jobseekers, pointing out their strong suits also helps see their weaknesses, which helps her work on said issues with them.

Gwennetta Reid speaking to one of her clients via phone.

Although the importance of disability employment is recognized during the month of October, making sure it’s talked about more than one month out of the year is important.

“It’s very important, but I think it should be year-round.”

– Gwennetta Reid on how disability employment shouldn’t just be tied to one month, but expanded to a full year.

Sandy Steele is a former UNC-Chapel Hill Inclusion Specialist, and her 34-year-old son Drew has down syndrome.

Drew Steele at his paid job working for Eastern Orthodontics and Pediatric Dentistry.

Since Drew graduated from high school, he’s worked multiple jobs, most of which he loves.

Steele says her son had to watch many of his friends graduate high school, go to college, and move on with their lives.

Although he has a disability, she knew Drew needed to find his purpose in the workforce as well.

“Having a job gave him a feeling of importance, it also helped with his schedule because he didn’t know what he needed to do. Those two things have made him a happy happy person, and made other people happy because he tries his best to do the best that he can.”

Drew working at The Drew Steele Center, where he volunteers once a week.

Sandy stressed the need of helping disabled people find their passion, so they too can do what they love in life.

Although the number of disabled workers in the U.S. is significantly lower than that of a non-disabled worker, an important key is going into an interview open-minded.

All three workers at Greenville’s Disability Advocates and Resource Center agreed that the stigma of fear surrounding a disabled person’s ability to work only aids to lower hiring numbers.

Aside from an increased hiring pool and diversity, around 60% of disability hires don’t require extra work accommodations.

A New York Times opinion piece also claims hiring people with disability might open fresh and new ideas to a company, so that they might better accommodate disabled customers.

The same article also estimated if we hire one percent of the 10.7 million disabled Americans, it could boost the G.D.P. by $25 billion.

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