National Disability Employment Month

Apr 29, 2024

Since October is National Disability Employment Month, his week’s issue focuses on the employment challenges people with disabilities face, along with powerful ways that communities and families are working to address these needs.  Here’s how you can help:

  1. Share this post with small business owners in your world and encourage them to include someone with a disability on their team.

  2. Encourage friends and family in the corporate world to make sure disability is a part of their workplace diversity and inclusion efforts.

  3. Support businesses of all shapes and sizes that create and promote job opportunities for people with disabilities. Which do you recommend? Let us know here so we can support them, too.

If we each take these small steps, so many doors can open.

Each time a person uses his or her capacity, the community is stronger, and the person is more powerful.

-–John McKnight

Find a passion.

People say it’s like falling off a cliff after high school. Friends leave. Classes end. Extra-curricular activities dry up. Jobs are scarce. While most of their typical peers can find a job, the unemployment rate for people with disabilities is still nearly twice that of those without. And the pandemic isn’t making it any easier.

There are countless benefits to hiring the right person with a disability, however. And determining which person is “right” often starts with discovering passion. For young adults with disabilities, that search should begin long before high school graduation. Identifying what they love, why they love it, and how they can convert it into a job opportunity is no small task. Here’s how one family succeeded on the journey:

With transition services and vocational training becoming more virtual because of Covid-19, parents may need direction on how to maximize this important time in their son or daughter’s development. This check-list can help you assess overall job readiness. Register here for online training on this topic, scheduled for October 15 at 6:30pm EST.

Success stories.

Three years ago, CNN named Amy Wright its “Hero of the Year” for her efforts to advocate for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). Since then, her family’s business, Bitty & Beau’s Coffee, has expanded in countless ways. This summer, they started selling franchises with the hope of deploying their mission nationwide.

Like many parents of children with special needs, Amy saw the writing on the wall when her kids were young. Limited employment for people with disabilities isn’t a new problem. Thankfully, the Wrights’ efforts are changing the landscape for parents everywhere. We’re now hoping and expecting more for our children, and we’re rolling up our sleeves to create it.

In Connecticut, parents created Beanz & Co., which provides the community with delicious food and exceptional customer service. This “inclusive cafe” also provides high-quality vocational training to young adults with disabilities who are interested in learning and contributing through hard work and commitment. The owners say companies that embrace best practices for employing persons with disabilities have outperformed their peers. They offer advice and encouragement to other small businesses here. Inclusive cafes have opened around the world, including in Slovenia and Belfast, and regularly receive top reviews on Trip Advisor. When quality products and service are provided, supportive customers are loyal to these businesses and propel them to further success.

Take Florida’s Rising Tide Car Wash, for example. One dad’s drive to create employment for his son now serves as a model for other communities. This social enterprise showcases the abilities of its employees by providing a much-needed service to customers. It’s also a successful business model that raises awareness of the need for employment options for people with disabilities in the community.

Another Dad-powered business in Minnesota, Buddies Pet Food Delivery, does just what the name implies. Owner Mark Kelsey says, “We are not only improving the productivity and quality of life for our Buddies with different intellectual abilities, but having a profound impact on our delivery partners, suppliers and customers.”

Pets are also at the center of a Connecticut non-profit called Woofgang & Co. , which I co-founded with a number of other active parents and educators. It provides free vocational training and job skills development to young adults after high school, who produce, package and sells peanut butter dog treats and other novelty items for “man’s best friend.” As Executive Director Erika Eng explains, “We provide our Team Members with a robust curriculum that helps them develop the skills needed to work effectively in a number of different settings. Team Members stay with us for as long as they desire, and some move on to paid employment using the knowledge and experience they’ve acquired in our retail store, bakery, or online fulfillment center.” In most states, individuals and families are required to pay for such job skills development. Eng says that free, high-quality vocational training is key to the ultimate success of all who desire employment. “It takes more than a village to do what we’re doing, though. Support from individuals, businesses, foundations and other community leaders is essential to this model.”

For more ideas and inspiration, check out John’s Crazy SocksZenaviv, and other businesses highlighted previously by Another Normal. Do you know of other good examples? Please share here so everyone can learn.

Corporate leadership.

Here’s a recent list of the Best Companies for People with Disabilities. I wish I could find something similar specifically for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities (I/DD). Accommodating someone with visual or mobility challenges but no cognitive impairments is very different from expanding job opportunities for someone with I/DD. As this report explains, people with I/DD are “an underutilized population of potential employees proven to be a positive influence on co- workers, customers, the community and a company’s bottom line.”  Here’s a list to help people with autism. And here is an organization that may also be useful to young adult job seekers and their families. Best Buddies also offers guidance and job search supports in some geographies.

If you have good advice on the topic of job searching, job placement, vocational training or disability employment in general, please share it below. Often, the best leads come from each other.

Interested in learning more about one-to-one coaching? Contact Kris for information on what this might look like for you, including outcomes, availability, fees and more.

Contact Kris

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