Each October, we at the Barber National Institute celebrate National Disability Employment Awareness month by honoring our employees and our partners in the community with a luncheon.
Getting a job is something of an inevitability for most of us; even on the board game “The Game of Life,” choosing your career is not a milestone you can skip. As parents, most of us begin asking our children at a very young age, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I can certainly recall that time in my life… as well how this question – and more importantly, the answer – changed after I had Ryan.
Yes, I’ve always had, and continue to have dreams for Ryan. However, rather than keep a narrow focus on a particular career, my hopes for Ryan’s future were instead that I wish for him to be the best that he can possibly be. That certainly could include employment, but the unfortunate reality is that persons with disabilities still face great disadvantages when seeking a job.
In fact, National Disability Employment Awareness Month was established 70 years ago to help bring light to the issue that many persons with disabilities were excluded from the work force. Decades later, still only 18% of persons with disabilities are employed in the work force.
So what can you do? Help us celebrate the talents and skills of persons with disabilities by becoming a participating business yourself! McDonald’s, Ember+Forge Coffee Shop, LECOM, Grape Vine Laundry, Bayfront Convention Center, Erie Insurance Arena, Art’s Bakery, Plastek Group, Odis 12, McQuillen Dealership, Triangle Tool, PHB Inc. are only a small sampling of the over 55 businesses with whom we are currently working locally. If you own a business, give us the opportunity to talk with you about how we might work together. If you are not, consider asking some of your friends and colleagues if they would be interested in working with us. It is, without doubt, a WIN/WIN situation: the person with a disability secures employment and the business gets an employee who is dedicated to the job, has a great work ethic, and desires to be a long-term employee.
Ryan is happily employed part-time doing maintenance work at Bello’s Super market and part-time at the Institute doing similar tasks. He loves both jobs and has told me that he plans to stay in the same jobs until he retires. I know there are countless others who are and would be as devoted as he!