The decline in the unemployment in North Carolina and the nation has been impressive, but one group has been left out of the improving job market — the disabled. There is a 45-point employment gap between working-age people without disabilities and those with disabilities. Nationally, 72 percent of of the first group are employed; 27 percent of the latter. North Carolina ranks 37th among the states in employing the disabled.
This job gap is about more than paychecks. For anyone, what they do for a living is an important part of their self-image. But for the disabled, it is especially significant. A satisfying job is a gateway into the wider community and an opportunity for the disabled to emphasize what they can do rather than what they can’t.
Fortunately a new effort is underway to educate employers about the value of hiring the disabled, including injured veterans. The EveryBody Works NC campaign kicked off at a N.C. Business Leadership Network conference earlier this month. In addition to urging employers to hire disabled people, the campaign is also pushing discouraged disabled job seekers to get back into the job market.
The Everybody Works NC campaign is a joint effort of the North Carolina Council on Developmental Disabilities, N.C. Vocational Rehabilitation and the N.C. Business Leadership Network.
Too often, the disabled are not hired because of wrong assumptions about their abilities. When that happens, it’s not only the applicant’s loss, but the employer’s. The disabled can bring an important new perspective and enthusiasm to a workplace and they tend to stay in their jobs longer.
Beth Butler, who is legally blind, is executive director of the N.C. Business Leadership Network. She said in a recent speech in Charlotte, “The disabled employees that you find and hire are tremendous more often than not. They work hard and they’re happy to be there.”
Meanwhile, businesses often overestimate the cost and complications of hiring disabled people. Those that hire disabled employees can accommodate them at little or no cost and may be eligible for tax breaks.
Alex McArthur, chair of the N.C. Council of Developmental Disabilities, said, “We are calling on teachers, educators, health care professionals and families to encourage children and young adults to prepare themselves for the workforce, attain job skills, perhaps go to collage and build a career. The alternative is too often poverty, boredom and isolation. People with disabilities deserve and should strive for independence and financial security through employment.”
For more information on this important and worthy effort to tap the abilities of disabled people, visit its website at everybodyworksnc.com