At 3.3%, Alabama’s unemployment rate is at one of its historic lows.
Despite that fact, according to a recent study by RespectAbility, a nonpartisan disability inclusion organization, Alabama ranks 49th out of the 50 states in terms of disability employment. Only 112,030 Alabamians with disabilities have a job, an employment rate of 26 percent. The national disability employment rate is 37 percent.
That needs to change.
Locally, groups like United Ability are working every day to improve Alabama’s statewide ranking by preparing people with a disability for work.
National Disability Employment Awareness Month
October marks the annual celebration of National Disability Employment Awareness Month.
Throughout the month advocates for people with disabilities celebrate job seekers with disabilities who are striving to work and employers who are recruiting talented employees with disabilities.
This year’s 2019 theme is “The Right Talent, Right Now.”
United Ability’s CEO Dr. Gary Edwards, wrote in a recent “white paper” titled “Disability in the Alabama Workforce” about why employing people with disabilities matters.
“Our nation was founded on the principle that anyone who works should be able to get ahead in life. People with disabilities deserve to be able to work and achieve the American dream, just like anyone else. If we find the right jobs for the right people it can, and does, increase the bottom line for companies while enabling people with disabilities to achieve dignity and independence.”
United Ability’s Employment Services and Project Search
United Ability is working to increase employment for people with disabilities.
“Our goal is to bridge that gap between coming out of high school and to the next path in their life,” said April Blake, manager of Transition Services at United Ability in an interview with Bham Now.
“That could be college, a job, a day program or whatever is appropriate for that individual. We are going into the schools all over Central Alabama and Birmingham and teaching pre-employment readiness skills.”
Through United Ability’s Employment Services program, individuals are provided one on one support and pre-hire training. which includes job coaching and how to maintain a job.
Blake listed off the many steps it takes to prepare some of the individuals with disabilities for a job.
“We are practicing those social skills. How do you interact with your co-workers? How do you interact with your bosses? We are practicing interview tips, how to dress, proper hygiene, maintaining the job, showing up on time.”
One very successful disability employment program at United Ability has been Project Search, a senior year high school internship program at UAB and St. Vincent Hospitals, a collaborative project funded by the Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services. A nine-month program, students with disabilities from the Birmingham and Hoover School Systems receive an opportunity to learn about all the different jobs in a hospital.
The hands-on training is invaluable, and once they conclude the program, several students have earned employment at the hospitals after they graduate. If they don’t secure a job at the hospital, which may happen because of availability, United Ability works with the individuals to find one.
Why it Matters
Blake summed up why getting a job and working with people with disabilities, especially out of high school.
“I absolutely love my job because I get to be a part of this instrumental time. With teenagers, in general, you have this fork in the road after high school. I can be there to help guide them and help them with their goals and realize that they have so much potential. I can see the difference between the first day of starting out program/class and seeing how much they have grown, and the pride in their work.
The realization that they have as much potential in the world as anyone else.”
Learn More about United Ability’s Employment Services
Learn more about United Ability’s Employment Services by visiting their website.
Also, EVERY month should be National Disability Employment Awareness Month.