America’s Recovery Can Be Powered by Inclusion

Posted on October 22, 2021

Greg Miller

Gregory Miller
President/CEO Penn-Mar Human Services

The theme for the 2021 National Disabilities Employment Awareness Month is “America’s Recovery: Powered by Inclusion.” It 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.

NDEAM is held each October to commemorate the many and varied contributions of people with disabilities to America’s workplaces and economy.

If you are a business owner or have responsibility for filling open positions in your company, you know how challenging hiring is today. We are experiencing the same workforce shortages here at Penn-Mar.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics most recent report, the number of job openings in this country increased to a series high of 10.9 million on the last business day of July.

That’s a lot of slots to fill and there are no shortages of theories on why this phenomenon has become so pervasive in the 19 months since COVID surfaced and upended life as we knew it.

Here are a few more statistics worth noting that are relevant to Penn-Mar’s mission to support and find employment for people with disabilities:

  • In 2020, 17.9 percent of persons with a disability were employed, down from 19.3 percent in 2019, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistic
  • For persons without a disability, 61.8 percent were employed in 2020, down from 66.3 percent in the prior year.
  • The unemployment rates for persons with and without a disability both increased from 2019 to 2020, to 12.6 percent and 7.9 percent, respectively.

The data on both groups for 2020 reflect the impact of the pandemic and efforts to contain it.

So the unemployment situation for people with disabilities basically mirrored the rest of society.

President Calvin Coolidge once said, “The business of America is business.”

Businesses today are desperate to attract skilled, motivated employees who can help their companies grow and prosper.

Given that need, I am convinced that there has never been a better time for businesses to consider hiring people with disabilities who are ready, willing and able to work and will add tremendous value to their team members and employers. The possibilities are limitless!

During the quarantine period, we were not hearing people say, “I’m glad I don’t have to work.” The overwhelming sentiment was more like “When can I get back to work?”

People with disabilities are no different from you or me. They get value out of accomplishment, of using the skills they have to do a good job. When that opportunity is taken away from them, it is not easily filled with something else.

Society has been traditionally slow to employ people with disabilities. It has taken multiple steps to get us where we are today — from considering it “a nice thing to do,” to offering part time opportunities, to full-time employment requiring a wide variety of skills in countless industry segments.

Long ago Benjamin Franklin talked about “doing well by doing good” and the businesses that have hired the people we support will be the first to tell you that hiring people with disabilities is good for business.

Our workforce is well trained for specific tasks and motivated to succeed and earn their place. In short, they have valuable assets to contribute to employers.

And whether you are a person with a passion for helping people with disabilities or someone who has never considered including them in your workforce, we’d like the opportunity to show you countless examples of how “America’s Recovery: Powered by Inclusion” is more than just a catchy phrase.

For more information about Penn-Mar’s Customized Employment Program, contact:

Tricia Zeltwanger | 717-942-8356 | tzeltwanger@penn-mar.org
Tonya Stonesifer | 410-871-4943 | tonyastonesifer@penn-mar.org
Albert E. Whitestone, III | 443-491-9632 | albertwhitestone@penn-mar.org
Daniel Rodriguez | 717-942-8338 | danielrodriguez@penn-mar.org