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Celebrate the talents of employees with disabilities during National Disability Employment Awareness Month

10/17/2012 8:00:00 AM
Written By:
Sarah Bowman

Professional, Superb Performance, Positive Attitude, Efficient - These are words used to describe stellar employees. They were also in a commendation presented to Kenny R., an employee with disabilities from The Arc of the Virginia Peninsula who works at the NOSTRA Lens Lab at Naval Weapons Station Yorktown. Kenny has been honored for his "consistent, superb performance of duties and demonstrated personal excellence" by the military and is respected by his coworkers for his work ethic.

Across the country, Kenny and other employees with disabilities are transforming workplaces. The Arc of the Virginia Peninsula is a proud service provider that helps 620 people with disabilities from throughout Hampton Roads and the Middle Peninsula and Northern Neck succeed in long-term employment. These employees earn more than $4.6 million in wages each year at jobs with regional employers, on federal installations, and on-site at The Arc's facilities in Hampton and Gloucester.

The Arc's business partners say their employees with disabilities model the behavior they want in their workforce - they arrive early, eager to work and complete their jobs with smiles on their faces. They also help increase morale at businesses; it has been shown that employees with disabilities increase overall attendance and productivity at job sites.

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), a national initiative that raises awareness about disability employment issues and celebrates the many contributions of America's workers with disabilities. NDEAM's roots go back to 1945, when Congress enacted a law declaring the first week in October each year "National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week." The celebration was increased to a month and the name was modified in subsequent years to reflect changes to our workforce and acknowledge the contributions of individuals with all types of disabilities.

The theme of this year's NDEAM is "A Strong Workforce is an Inclusive Workforce: What Can YOU Do?" We challenge you to look for ways employees with disabilities can become members of your team. Other ways you can celebrate this month include:

  • Contact The Arc for a tour. We are eager to introduce others to our organization and highlight our business partnerships.
  • Recycle your old electronic equipment with The Arc! People with disabilities, many of whom are high school students, disassemble electronic equipment brought to The Arc by businesses and individuals.
  • Spread the word about how employees with disabilities help businesses thrive.

70% of people with disabilities nationally are unemployed. This sad statistic highlights the importance of giving people with disabilities the opportunity to become part of the workforce. People with disabilities are only limited by our lack of imagination as to what they can do.

Employees like Kenny make our workplaces and communities stronger. Please join us this month to celebrate the many contributions of employees with disabilities and recognize the dedicated employers and business partners who help thousands of people with disabilities experience the pride and independence that comes from earning their own wages.

Sarah Bowman is the Director of Marketing for The Arc of the Virginia Peninsula, a nonprofit that serves more than 1,100 individuals with developmental disabilities annually in employment, day support, early childhood, and community living programs. The Arc serves the entire Hampton Roads region, as well as the Middle Peninsula and Northern Neck.

Sarah graduated from Christopher Newport University with a degree in English. She is the former Manager of Marketing and Public Affairs for Newport News/ Williamsburg International Airport and also previously worked as the Public Information Officer at VDOT's Traffic Operations Center.

Sarah is a Past President of the Kiwanis Club of Mercury 64 and the Treasurer of the Public Relations Society of America's Hampton Roads Chapter.

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