United Ability celebrates National Disability Employment Awareness Month all year long

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United Ability Employment Expo in September 2021. Photo via United Ability

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month. It’s a big deal. But if you visited United Ability’s Birmingham campus right off Lakeshore Parkway like I did recently, you wouldn’t see hats, streamers, posters or office parties celebrating the month.  

Why?

Abe Bernstein, Director of United Ability Enterprises, which includes the popular Gone For Good Secure Document and E-waste destruction  program, told me why.

“Every month here at United Ability is disability employment month!”

Unemployment is High for People With Disabilities

According to Katie Dumais, United Ability’s Director of Employment Services, even though the unemployment rate in Alabama is at an all-time low, the unemployment rate for individuals with disabilities remains very high, even though individuals with disabilities are eager to work.

Need evidence? This past September, United Ability held a hiring expo at LINCPoint, the epicenter of its adult programs. Nineteen businesses and over 180 prospective job seekers attended the event.

Creating Pathways to Work

One of the attendees was Fitzgerald Washington, Labor Secretary for the Alabama Department of Labor. He got to see firsthand how United Ability prepares and finds jobs for people with disabilities.

“At the Alabama Department of Labor, we have to make sure we create pathways for everybody who’s looking for work,” said Washington. “Because of the pandemic, there are still some challenges in the workforce where some employers are finding it difficult to find skilled workers. I can’t think of a better opportunity for those employers who are looking for skilled workers than to look at someone with a disability.”

Partnerships Work

United Ability
Serving customers at Princeton Hospital. Photo via United Ability

United Ability is ready to place people with disabilities throughout Central Alabama. Dumais noted many of United Ability’s clients work in most of Birmingham’s hospitals. They also are making inroads in the service sector. Local employers include:

  • Jacks
  • Hibbett Sports
  • Royal Cup Coffee and Tea
  • Coca-Cola Bottling United
  • Buffalo Rock
  • Lowes 
  • Sheraton and Westin Hotels in downtown Birmingham
United Ability
The staff of United Ability’s Gone for Good in 2018. Abe Bernstein is in the blue shirt in the center. Photo by Pat Byington for Bham Now

United Ability Enterprises employs over 100 people providing services from recycling to kitting, packaging, collating, assembly and fulfillment. 

Life-changing

Helping people with disabilities find a job is life-changing.

“A job gives employees with disabilities purpose and confidence, plus life skills,” said Bernstein.

United Ability
United Ability’s Gone for Good. Photo courtesy of United Ability

And nothing beats receiving that first check, Dumais explained.

“My favorite part about my job is when we have an individual who has come to us and they’ve gone through all of our programs, and we  help them find employment.  My favorite day is the day they get their first paycheck. That’s a really good day. Think of someone who has maybe been told ‘no’ their whole life. And we’ve told them yes!  You can work, and they get that first paycheck, They can provide. They can buy whatever they want. They’ve worked for that money. It’s just so meaningful,” she concluded.

That’s why National Disability Employment Awareness Month matters. You don’t need to throw a party, because United Ability and all its partners are celebrating disability employment month everyday.

Want to learn more about United Ability’s Employment Services and Enterprises programs? Connect with Katie Dumais today for more information about opportunities for individuals with disabilities seeking employment at 205.944.3979.

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Pat Byington
Longtime conservationist. Former Executive Director at the Alabama Environmental Council and Wild South. Publisher of the Bama Environmental News for more than 18 years. Career highlights include playing an active role in the creation of Alabama's Forever Wild program, Little River Canyon National Preserve, Dugger Mountain Wilderness, preservation of special places throughout the East through the Wilderness Society and the strengthening (making more stringent) the state of Alabama's cancer risk and mercury standards.
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