Every year, during the month of October, we celebrate National Disability Employment Awareness Month, an opportunity to recognize and promote the contributions of individuals with disabilities in the workforce. This special month serves as a reminder of the progress made in promoting workplace diversity, inclusivity, and equal opportunities for people with disabilities. It’s also a time to reflect on the challenges that still exist and the steps we can take to create a more inclusive and accessible workplace for all.
We’d like to highlight a couple of our recent grantees who are making a difference in fostering inclusion in the workplace.
Relay Resources’ mission is to cultivate meaningful work for people with disabilities. For more than 70 years, they have been setting people up for success by creating competency-based support with training and opportunities for a workforce that is capable yet underemployed. With this proven approach, they’ve been strengthening business and community and helping employees thrive.
Relay Resources recently received a $30,000 Imagination Grant from the Kuni Foundation for their Employee Support Program. The Employee Support team helps neurodiverse employees develop the skills necessary to succeed in their employment. Based on the individual needs of each employee, the team may provide emotional support tools, career-pathing, and communication training.
Garten Services’ mission is to support people with disabilities in their effort to contribute to the community through employment, career and retirement opportunities. They provide vocational, day activity and retirement services for people with developmental disabilities.
Garten’s Community Employment Program provides customized support for people with disabilities who seek meaningful employment. The program helps businesses address critical workforce shortage needs while helping people gain the valuable experience and skills needed to achieve financial stability and to work within their communities.
Garten Services received a $30,000 Imagination Grant in 2023 to acquire a van to transport people to job sites. One of the top employment barriers for people with disabilities is the lack of reliable, accessible and safe transportation to their job site. This Imagination Grant gives Garten Services the opportunity to remove that barrier and helps to keep people employed and integrated into the community.
Focus on this issue doesn’t have to end just because it’s October 31, because there is much work to be done. Only one in five people aged 21-64 with a disability are employed. The sub-minimum wage persists across the country. People are paid as little as $0.25 an hour simply because they have a disability. It is past time that we eliminated the sub-minimum wage.
In 2012, the National Council on Disability issued a study that found 420,000 people were paid a sub-minimum wage. Through strong advocacy work, that number has been reduced to under 100,000. Individual states are beginning to ban the sub-minimum wage, but a permanent change needs to occur at the federal level. Learn more about the issue in this insightful article: Labor Department Scrutinizing Subminimum Wage Employment
The U.S. Department of Labor has announced that it will review the payment of a sub-minimum wage to people with a disability. You can be a part of the solution. Talk to your congressperson and let them know that you support eliminating the sub-minimum wage.
If you are looking for resources to improve your inclusive workplace practices, the National Disability Employment Awareness Month has a great list of ideas.