National Disability Employment Awareness Month: Recognizing the skills, talents of all individuals
October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), a time to promote inclusion and celebrate the significant contributions of workers with disabilities.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, 17.9 percent of individuals with disabilities were employed in 2020, down from 19.3 percent in 2019. In contrast, the employment-population ratio for those without a disability was 61.8 percent, down from 66.3 percent in 2019.
Each year, the U.S. Department of Labor holds a national campaign for NDEAM. This year’s theme – America’s Recovery: Powered by Inclusion – “reflects the importance of ensuring that people with disabilities have full access to employment and community involvement during the national recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.”
“COVID-19 has presented new challenges for people with disabilities, such as increased health risks, isolation and job loss,” said Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health Vice President of Operations – Adult Services Stephen Bruce, M.Ed., BCBA. "We want to make sure these individuals have the opportunity to showcase their skills and talents; obtain meaningful employment in the community; and thrive in a safe environment.”
One individual who is pursuing his dreams – with support from Devereux New Jersey – is Eugene Zeiber, who has been working as a crew member at a Wendy’s restaurant in Hackettstown, N.J. since August 2020.
“I work four hours per week,” Zeiber shared. “I take out the garbage, restock french fries in the freezer, break down boxes, refill the ice machine, put bacon on the trays to cook, do dishes and assist with making chili. I enjoy receiving a paycheck and having the responsibility of putting bacon on the trays.”
Zeiber is enrolled in Devereux New Jersey’s community-supported employment program. The goal of the program is to help individuals acquire the skills needed to maintain competitive employment.
“My job coaches taught me how to put chili in containers without spilling it, where to put french fries and how often to take out the garbage,” Zeiber noted. “They taught me how to do my job and, sometimes, give me reminders when I need them at work. I am doing well. I have learned hard work and how to stick with a job.”
As for what the future holds, Zeiber said, “I plan to stay at Wendy’s for a long time, take on more job duties and, maybe, work another day of the week.”
John Henderson, who also is enrolled in Devereux New Jersey’s community-supported employment program, has been working 23 hours per week as a host and busser at an Applebee’s restaurant in Vineland, N.J., since June 2020.
“I seat customers, clean and sanitize tables in the dining room and help in the kitchen, as needed,” Henderson explained. “I enjoy helping the customers and my co-workers.”
In April 2021, Henderson received the New Jersey Association of Community Providers (NJACP) Stars Award, which is presented annually to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities across the state who overcome challenges in their daily lives.
“I was surprised and happy to receive the award,” shared Henderson, who credits his job coaches with helping him be successful at work. “They make sure I get to and from work on time and that I use my coping skills. I hope to continue working, maintain my coping skills and eventually get my own apartment.”
Learn more about Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health’s employment and transition services.
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