Man in wheelchair working stock

I can’t let the month of October end without my annual recognition of it being National Disability Employment Awareness month.

Although I like to write about employment for people with disabilities throughout the year, it is important to recognize it is a nationwide topic that continues to deserve our support and awareness.

The theme that was selected by the U.S. Department of Labor for this year is “The Right Talent, Right Now.” The published news release says this theme “emphasizes the essential role that people with disabilities play in America’s economic success, especially in an era when historically low unemployment and global competition are creating a high demand for skilled talent.”

“Every day, individuals with disabilities add significant value and talent to our workforce and economy,” said Alexander Acosta, U.S. Secretary of Labor. “Individuals with disabilities offer employers diverse perspectives on how to tackle challenges and achieve success. Individuals with disabilities have the right talent, right now.”

With that in mind, I would again like to ask two things of our community with respect to employment for people with disabilities.

First, for those local companies who have never considered hiring someone with disabilities or thought the work they do is not conducive to this population, take a look around the community.

Every year, the Governor’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities, the Department of Workforce Services and Utah State Office of Rehabilitation presents Golden Key Awards to local businesses in honor of the work they do to promote employment opportunities for people with disabilities, including veterans.

If you take a look at the list of businesses honored, you will note an assortment of industries represented. For example, this year the Large Employer of the Year award went to Rock Mountain Power, Medium Employer was Texas Roadhouse and Small Employer was Jessie Jean’s Café. This should be an indication that, with the right resources and commitment, any business can create an inclusive employment environment.

The second thing I ask is that when you do patronize businesses who employ people with disabilities, make sure to thank them for their commitment. Instead of just rushing by the person in the wheelchair whose job it is to welcome you, take a moment and respond in like kindness. It has been my experience that people who have disabilities who have struggled to find work and then have it will work hard to prove themselves. They will be friendly and helpful. As customers, just be friendly and patient back to them. Also, keep in mind that not all disabilities are obvious or visible.

We are a better community when we make room for everyone in our workforce. October is a good time to be reminded of the national effort toward this goal, but our local commitment should be to work towards it every day.

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