October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, and there were a flurry of news stories in Maine at the end of the month focused on the positives of employing people with disabilities.
On October 21, WCSH, Channel 6, the NBC affiliate in Portland, ran [Note: Link autoplays video] "Businesses Urged to Hire Qualified Workers with Disabilities," a TV news segment focusing on Proctor & Gamble's decision to stop outsourcing some of its work to New Jersey and to keep it in Maine, instead, by hiring workers with disabilities. The program highlighted Maine's declining birth rate and increasingly aging population as an important reason to tap into the resource of the disabled workforce.
Three days later, Jeanne Paquette, the commissioner of the Maine Department of Labor, wrote a guest article for the Portland Press Herald's "Maine Voices" column on the benefits of hiring disabled people. "Employers have much to gain by hiring people with disabilities" also referenced Maine being "the oldest state in the nation," but went on to focus on the success of the state's vocational rehabilitation program in placing people with disabilities in a wide range of jobs, from retail chains to information technology. After Commissioner Paquette tooted her Department's horn, she appealed to employers directly to hire people with disabilities, pointing out the benefits to employers of doing so:
More businesses need to educate themselves about the benefits of hiring a worker with a disability and then do it. Many employers hold a mistaken impression that hiring a person with a disability is expensive or that resources are not available to support the person once they begin working. Let me dispel these stereotypes.Paquette ended her post with this call to action:
Hiring or retaining workers with disabilities is an excellent investment in a company’s human assets. Research shows that people with disabilities are both loyal employees and loyal customers. These workers value the relationship and the investment a business makes in them. For the minority of workers with disabilities who need special equipment or an accommodation, 56 percent of these adaptations cost less than $600, with many costing nothing. Available tax incentives help businesses cover accessibility costs, and businesses can qualify for work opportunity tax credits for hiring people with disabilities.
Turn “I can’t hire someone with a disability” into “I’m so glad I did!” by calling 1-855-ALL-HIRE or visiting www.employmentforme.org. Make a great investment in your workforce.