In 1988, the U.S. Department of Labor designated the month of October to create awareness for the struggle Americans with disabilities have when seeking employment. Congress started the roots of this in 1945. The purpose is to educate about disability employment issues and bridge the gap between employers with inclusive work environments and those lacking inclusion. It also is designed to celebrate the many and varied contributions of America’s workers with disabilities.
One way that National Disability Employment Awareness Month has shortened this gap is by offering practical tools and educational resources for employers with concerns about hiring and accommodating qualified workers with disabilities. The Department of Labor is utilizing digital forums like the job accommodation network (www.askjan.org) to help answer some specific questions that employers might have about creating a more inclusive workplace.
In the more than 12 years that I have worked at Goodwill Industries of Central Oklahoma I have found, almost without fail, if an employer can be given the opportunity to see the minimal costs involved in accommodating qualified people with disabilities, they are swayed in favor of inclusion.
Online resources like the Job Accommodation Network, allow employers to input the names of disabilities and receive estimated print outs on how much money would be required to provide reasonable accommodations for a worker with that disability. Also available through this resource are updated tax credit information and a return-on-investment calculator to aid employers in confidently making the decision to widen the playing field for qualified job seekers with disabilities.
For more than 100 years, Goodwills across the nation have worked tirelessly to eliminate the hurdles for people with disabilities daily. We do this through providing programs to train, sustain and elevate each and every program participant we serve.
One way we can accomplish this goal is to educate hiring professionals on the truth about providing reasonable accommodations to create inclusive work environments. This truth not only levels the playing field for the workers with disabilities, whose cause we proudly champion, but it gives a vision to hiring professionals to open each position to the most qualified candidate regardless of disability.
Goodwill’s founder the Rev. Edgar J. Helms perhaps said it best, “ … be dissatisfied with your work until every handicapped and unfortunate person in your community has an opportunity to develop to his fullest usefulness and enjoy a maximum of abundant living … It is ability, not disability that counts.” So join us in our dissatisfaction and our hope for today’s task.
CHRIS DANIELS is the CEO of Goodwill Industries of Central Oklahoma.