Disabilities and Employment: Expect. Employ. Empower.

Did you know that October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM)?  NDEAM is a favorable time to educate Americans about “disability employment issues and to celebrate the many and varied contributions of America’s workers with disabilities.”

Disability Employment 2014

Assistant Secretary of Labor for Disability Employment Policy, Kathy Martinez stated:

“We all have a role to play in–and benefit to gain from–increasing opportunities for meaningful employment for people with disabilities.  This year’s theme (‘Expect. Employ. Empower.’) encapsulates this in three powerful words.  It conveys that advancing disability employment is about much more than just hiring.  It’s about creating a continuum of inclusion.  And the first step on this continuum is expectation.”

To find out how you can help or to find employment options for individuals with disabilities, keep on reading.

History of NDEAM

The history of National Disability Employment Awareness Month traces back to 1945, when Congress enacted a law declaring the first week in October each year “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.  In 1988, Congress expanded the week to a month and changed the name to National Disability Employment Awareness Month.

Employment Services

Vocational Rehabilitation Services

There are many services available to help individuals with disabilities find employment.  For individuals in the state of Indiana, Vocational Rehabilitation Services (VRS) is an ideal place to start.  VRS is a program that provides “quality individualized services to enhance and support people with disabilities to prepare for, obtain or retain employment.”  Some specific services provided may include:

  • Vocational guidance and counseling;
  • Medical treatment to correct or modify mental or physical impairment;
  • Training (i.e. vocational school, college or university, on-the-job, and other training);
  • Assistive devices and services (see INDATA Project below);
  • and more!

Easter Seals Crossroads

Easter Seals Crossroads (ESC) is another helpful resource for adults with disabilities looking for employment opportunities.  Some of the services offered at Easter Seals Crossroads include career assessment, job placement and supported employment services.  The Employment Programs’ staff at Easter Seals Crossroads helps job-seeking individuals identify their employment goals and create a plan to meet those personal goals.

  • Career assessment.  At Easter Seals Crossroads, the staff at Employment Programs focus on “vocational counseling and career exploration to identify employment capabilities and interests related to job responsibilities and to investigate possible accommodations.”
  • Employment Services.  While working with a representative of Employment Services, individuals will receive ongoing support and guidance before, during and after receiving secured employment.
    • Guidance is provided for:
      • Effective resume development;
      • interviewing and job seeking strategies;
    • Services include:
      • building relationships with employers,
      • arranging job interviews,
      • employer advocacy,
      • job shadowing,
      • and assisting with job accommodations.

Indiana Assistive Technology Act (INDATA)

A major barrier one may encounter while seeking employment is not having access to assistive technology.

“The term ‘assistive technology device’ means any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities.”  –Assistive Technology Act of 1998

The INDATA Project at Easter Seals Crossroads provides information and access to such assistive technology, at no charge, for Hoosiers with disabilities.  These services are offered statewide and are derived through the Indiana Assistive Technology Act (INDATA) state/federal grant and include:

  • device demonstrations,
  • device loans,
  • recycled computers
  • reutilized assistive technology equipment,
  • alternative financing resources,
  • and educational trainings and conferences.

#Work4LifeIN Campaign

To celebrate National Disability Employment Awareness Month, Indiana Vocational Rehabilitation Services is embarking on an exciting social media campaign targeting transition-age youth in Indiana. The campaign, Disability Employment 2014#Work4LifeIN, encourages the many benefits of employment for individuals with disabilities, as well as to promote awareness about employment concerns.

“How can I participate in this exciting campaign?!” you may ask.

  1. First, follow the official Twitter account for the campaign @IndianaVR
  2. Second, you can retweet to help participants tell the stories of how important work is in their lives.
  3. You can encourage individuals with disabilities to tweet videos or pictures with them holding the #Work4LifeIN sign (as demonstrated by yours truly on the right.)
  4. Post your photo or video with your #Work4LifeIN sign on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram using the #Work4Life hashtag.
  5. Share your empowering video or photo with friends and family!
  6. GOAL:  Together we can all deliver a strong message stating the importance of work for individuals with disabilities.

On my sign you can find I filled in the blank with I Work 4 INDEPENDENCE, but I honestly had a difficult time choosing a single word.  I stayed with independence because it is very important to me.  Since I was a young child I have tried to maintain as much independence as possible, and working helps me obtain that goal; working gives me a grand sense of accomplishment.  I also work for happiness, camaraderie, exciting opportunities, adventure, to challenge myself–I work to use my unique abilities to positively influence my community.

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