Businesses can make a difference during National
Disability Employment Awareness Month
(Milwaukee) – October is National Disability Employment
Awareness Month, and throughout the month Bethesda is making the case directly
to employers that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities can
be wonderful, loyal employees – ones that add value to businesses and their
“People with disabilities aren’t always on the radar
of employers, and that’s unfortunate, especially in today’s tight job market,”
said Mike Thirtle, president and CEO of Bethesda. “There are myriad reasons for
this – for example, employers may simply be unaccustomed to working side by
side with people with disabilities, or are unsure how to accommodate their
needs if they do want to make a job offer.
“But when employers take a closer look, they can
begin to recognize the value of hiring people with disabilities, who can be
among the most creative, dedicated team members you can find,” Thirtle said.
Statistics show that there is more opportunity that employers
can provide. According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s August 2019 report,
just 21.3 percent of people with disabilities were in the labor force, compared
to 68.7 percent of those without a disability. While the labor force
participation rate for people with disabilities has increased in recent years, it
has not rebounded from pre-recession 2009 levels – even though employers are
eagerly searching for quality workers.
For employers interested in hiring people with disabilities,
the good news is that accommodations can be inexpensive to buy and implement.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Disability Employment
Policy, 25 percent of workplace accommodations cost nothing, and two-thirds
cost $500 or less.
The payoff can be seen not just in job performance
but also in loyalty, as the Institute for Corporate Productivity reports that 62
percent of employees with developmental disabilities stay in the same job for
three years or more – reducing the expense of eventually replacing them.
The potential benefit to the bottom line for
employers is immense. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, companies that
have embraced disability as a component of their talent strategy have seen an
increase of 72 percent in employee productivity. Additionally, 87 percent of
customers of all abilities would prefer to patronize a business that puts
people with disabilities to work, according to an Employment First study.
“We’re using National Disability Employment
Awareness Month to change minds and hearts and encourage action, because all of
us can and must do more,” Thirtle said. “I firmly believe that employers who
take positive action will be rewarded in many ways.”
A downloadable resource to help guide employers who
are interested in hiring a person with a disability can be found at BethesdaLC.org/NDEAM.
Beyond advocating at a national level for employment
opportunities for people with developmental disabilities, Bethesda provides
employment services in select states. Bethesda has employment staff who work
closely with people with disabilities as well as employers, with the ultimate
goal of making mutually beneficial connections. Additionally, at Bethesda
College, a program at Concordia University Wisconsin, college-age students have
the opportunity to gain employment skills through hands-on learning experiences
More information about Bethesda’s services can be
found at BethesdaLC.org/employment.
Headquartered in Watertown, Wis., Bethesda is a national organization providing homes and other services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and is celebrating its 115th anniversary in 2019. Bethesda strives to become a central point of connection that unites people who have disabilities with communities and provides essential resources to help them live their lives to the fullest. The organization offers more than 300 programs across the country, and is guided by Christian faith. For more information, go to http://www.bethesdalc.org, like our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.