Nationwide campaign takes place each October
Each October, the support community for adults with disabilities participates in National Disability Employment Awareness Month to bring attention to the employment needs and contributions of individuals with a range of disabilities.
For the staff at Benedictine’s Community Services and Training Center in Easton, Md., providing employment support and job training is a year-round mission. For more than 15 years, Benedictine has supported adults in finding and keeping competitively paid jobs in the community and currently serves more than 100 job seekers on the Mid Shore.
To celebrate individuals with disabilities, their contributions and achievements to the workforce, individuals from Benedictine’s Adult Services program took time to recognize local businesses that employ individuals with developmental and other disabilities and autism. Throughout the month, individuals visited area businesses that partner with Benedictine’s job placement program to deliver certificates of appreciation, and of course, big smiles.
“At the heart of our mission is commitment to the Benedictine value, Dignity of Work,” said Beth Mathis, director of adult services at Benedictine. “We believe that regardless of the degree of disability, all people should have the opportunity to explore interests and abilities through involvement in a variety of meaningful, productive vocational training options.”
Of the businesses recognized, Jorge Alvarez, director of food and nutrition at University of Maryland Shore Medical Center at Easton, shared the impact of hiring an adult from Benedictine’s hospitality class.
“It brings diversity to our staff we find very important,” Alvarez said, “and enhances our ability to help anyone and teaches us to communicate effectively.”
Benedictine partners with leaders from the business community representing a range of industries including food service, health & beauty, administrative, hospitality and retail. In conjunction with Maryland’s Employment First initiative, Benedictine’s adult program provides a range of services including pre-employment education, career exploration, skills development, job-coaching supports, group involvement/advocacy, job development, and career-focused training.
“New State and federal regulations are enabling Benedictine to transform community employment options for the people we serve and eliminate the use of sub-minimum wage employment in Benedictine’s businesses,” said Scott Evans, Benedictine executive director. “This evolution in our adult employment and residential programs is in line with our mission and values and opens up opportunities for the people we serve to be more involved in our local community.”
Employers and employees in all industries can learn more about how to participate in National Disability Employment Awareness Month and ways they can promote its messages — during October and throughout the year — by visiting www.dol.gov/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.