On October 1, President Obama Proclaimed October as National Disability Employment Awareness Month, stating, “I urge all Americans to embrace the talents and skills that individuals with disabilities bring to our workplaces and communities and to promote the right to equal employment opportunity for all people.”
TASH celebrates National Disability Employment Awareness Month by rededicating ourselves to our commitment to increase integrated employment rates for people perceived to have the most significant barriers to employment. We do this by understanding that employment is the most defining aspect of participation in society. It is the way we build our social capital. It is the path to economic self-sufficiency. It is one of the most powerful avenues for life-long learning and growing. There is dignity and self-respect gained from contributing through work.
Perhaps more than ever before, there is urgency in increasing employment rates for people with significant disabilities. Most individuals with significant disabilities continue to be isolated and segregated in day activity centers and sheltered workshops or are unemployed and un-served on waiting lists. This is not unsustainable, neither morally nor economically. Employment should be an expected life activity for individuals with significant disabilities, and they should not be forced into a decision of whether or not to work as an aspect of self-determination. Self-determination provides the right to direct the type and manner of employment and provides individuals a way to opt out of working for those who prefer a different lifestyle.
Each of us has a role in increasing integrated employment that we can recommit to this month. Parents – set high expectations for your children from a very early age. Teachers – believe that your students WILL one day work in the community and prepare them for adulthood with this perspective. Professionals – support the hopes and dreams of parents and their children with high expectations and evidence-based practices and supports. And, self-advocates – believe in yourself. Surround yourself with supporters and resources who support your dreams.
TASH Executive Director