There is a large stigma against those with disabilities. Many misunderstand the wide diversity in disability and the success that those who are disabled can have in their lives.
This success may come in academic, economic, social, or personal forms. This is a testimony to how those with disability may overcome their challenges and live incredibly fulfilling lives. It was authored by a teacher who attempts to explain how, through her experience, labels can be limiting and the reason for why so many underestimate those living with a disability.
You can read her full testimony here.
A study from the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that about 20% of those with a disability were employed last year.
It has also been found that these individuals provide substantial benefits to the economy of local communities. These individuals in 2017 made around 27.7 million and paid over half of this workforce’s 11.9 million dollars in taxes.
What Can be Done
Education is a crucial step to remove the stigma around disability. Programs implemented in the education system and in the workforce can make a huge difference. Those with disabilities are the largest minority group in the United States, but it is one of the least funded areas. This pattern has continued during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act worked to improve the individualized instruction of people with disabilities in the education system. However, these programs need funding and proper implementation in order to be successful. It’s about ensuring equal opportunities for all students for their current and future needs.
Educating teachers for how to be inclusive in the classroom is also a necessary step to ensure success. A lack of training or awareness can have unintended consequences.
Training is also essential for employers.
People with disabilities report needing increased qualifications to be considered for jobs that others could receive without needing them. For instance, obtaining a graduate degree is often perceived as necessary.
Sometimes its about changing the narrative. Making a building more accessible can increase productivity and propel the business. It’s also important to integrate disabled and not disabled employees so they are working together. Having a cohesive workspace is important.
It shouldn’t just be about making quotas or appearing inclusive, we need to emphasize the benefits that those with disabilities can bring a company.
The Peer Power Summit
Ric Nelson has cerebral palsy. He also serves on 8 different boards advocating for disability, and was named in the Top Forty Under 40 by Alaska’s Journal of Commerce. Nelson’s goals are expansive, and he wants to make a difference for the disability community across all 50 states.
Due to his disability, he necessitates full-time physical assistance. But he hasn’t let that hold him back in the least.
Nelson is President for a program that is now planning its 5th annual Peer Power Summit. This will be held in Anchorage on September 24th through 26th of 2021. This program aims to help build a community among those with disabilities, provide individuals with resources and encouragement, and help them find, sustain, and thrive with employment.
They do plan to broadcast this summit as well, due to those who are unable to attend in person due to the pandemic.