Let’s ALL Dance… During NDEAM and Throughout the Year!

By Dr. Lisa Svidron,
EdD, CESP, Associate Director of Employment Services, Mainstay Life Services
Thank You, Direct Support Professionals Sign

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) and is a time for all of us to celebrate the movement of inclusion in the community-based workspace. During NDEAM we can educate – and be educated – about disability employment issues and celebrate the many and varied contributions of America’s workers with disabilities.

I have been a part of the supported employment world for 20+ years and have seen so many changes. I got my start at a team meeting (ISP meeting as they are called today). During this meeting “Johnny” expressed that he wanted to work at the local grocery store. Everyone on the team thought this was a bad idea and that he couldn’t work…that is, everyone but me! I piped right up and told Johnny we would get him a job. The Supports Coordinator at the time had no idea how to make that happen in his plan and needed to consult her manager.

Johnny was going to work!

I began helping Johnny apply for jobs and attended interviews with him. However, we were quite disappointed at the outcomes. I heard responses such as, “Johnny can’t work here, he’s disabled,” “I’m sorry, we have no room for someone like Johnny,” and “Johnny can’t do this job.” I heard the same thing over and over again, at least 100 times in a six-month period.

Then one day, Johnny’s aunt called me and said, “My work needs someone to file each week, can Johnny do this?” My response was, “Heck ya! See you tomorrow!” And that was the beginning of it all.

Today we hear just as many “yesses” as we do “nos.” But the community employment world has become more integrated and inclusive than it was 20 years ago, thanks to the work of all the Employment Specialists, Job Coaches, Job Developers, Job Facilitators and Employers!

Thank you to those that understand the world of integration and inclusion and those that seek to incorporate the diversity of workers by creating a work environment that including all races, nationalities, and those with physical, mental and emotional diversity.

NDEAM is powered by inclusion and the diverse workforce, and we look forward to a future where job seekers see all YESs – and no NOs.

Verna Myers, Vice President of Inclusion Strategy at Netflix, sums it up using one phrase, “Diversity is being invited to the party; inclusion is being asked to dance.” Let’s all dance!