Press Release: CDLE Highlights Skills of Workers With Disabilities During Disability Employment Awareness Month

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For Immediate Release | October 1, 2021

In recognition of the significant contributions of Colorado’s workers with disabilities, Governor Jared Polis signed a proclamation declaring October Disability Employment Awareness Month (DEAM), whose 2021 theme is “America’s Recovery: Powered by Inclusion.”

“As the state continues its economic recovery in the wake of the pandemic, this year’s theme is especially appropriate,” said Joe Barela, Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE). “As CDLE’s mission is to promote a thriving employment environment with opportunities for every Coloradan to prosper, it speaks to the critical need for intentional inclusion in all of our recovery efforts.”

Now in its 76th year, DEAM raises awareness of issues affecting disability employment and celebrates the many and varied contributions of America’s workers with disabilities. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy leads the month’s efforts, but, as their website notes, “its true spirit lies in the many observances held at the grassroots level across the nation every year.”

“During Disability Employment Awareness Month, we want to increase employer awareness of the many talents and skills of Coloradans with disabilities bring to the workplace,” said Kristin Corash, Director of the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR). “When employers intentionally create inclusive and accessible talent management practices, they attract more diverse candidates, providing opportunities for workers with disabilities, benefiting workers, employers, and our economy.”

Both CDLE and its Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) will be featuring employment resources for people with disabilities. Every week will be dedicated to a different theme surrounding the employment of people with disabilities. DVR will also present the fifth annual Shining Stars of Disability Employment Awards, recognizing businesses and individuals who make exemplary efforts in the intentional recruitment, hiring, retention and advancement of individuals with disabilities.  

Corash also noted that, generally speaking, people with disabilities experience an unfounded stigma when it comes to employment. She also emphasized that they also often have high levels of poverty, a factor that lowers people with disabilities' chances of getting and keeping a job. 

Her observations are borne out by statistics provided by the University of New Hampshire’s Institute on Disability, which notes that nationally 26 percent of people with disabilities live in poverty, compared to approximately 11 percent of the able-bodied population. The same report found that only 37 percent of people with disabilities are employed, nearly half the employment rate of people who are able-bodied (77.2 percent).

The awareness month comes on the heels of Governor Polis’ signing of SB21-095, extending the Employment First Advisory Partnership (EFAP) and creating a hiring preference pilot program for qualified applicants with disabilities, developed by the Governor’s office, the Attorney General’s office, the Department of Personnel Administration (DPA), the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE), and the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation. The pilot will be housed in CDLE; if successful, it will be adopted in other state government agencies.

CDLE and DVR encourage workers with disabilities to visit one of the state’s 52 Workforce Centers, many of which partner with DVR to provide no-cost customized workforce development services, connecting them to employment opportunities, educational and training opportunities, and more; they also collaborate with business and other government and nonprofit organizations to fully integrate Coloradans living with disabilities into the workforce. Employers interested in learning how they can create inclusive workplaces are also encouraged to contact their local Workforce Center.

Highlights for Disability Employment Awareness Month

Information about the month and the themed weeks, including upcoming trainings and events, as well as resources for both job seekers and employers, can be found on:

The Division of Vocational Rehabilitation’s website, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter accounts 
CDLE’s website, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter pages

Feature weeks

October 4-8: Awareness of Disabilities
October 11-15: Inclusion in the Workplace
October 18-22: Intentional Accessibility
October 25-29: Careers and Employment Opportunities

Below is a sampling of the month’s events. 

October 6th, 12 - 1:00: Lunch & Learn: Albeism & Inclusion
October 12th, 12 - 1:00: Lunch & Learn: Disability Etiquette
October 19th, 12 - 1:00: Lunch & Learn: Intentional Accessibility: Building Accessibility into your work
October 26th, 12 - 1:00: Lunch & Learn: ADA & the Workplace: Hiring Do’s and Don’ts
October 27th, 12 - 1:00: Virtual Awards Ceremony for the Shining Stars of Disability Employment

Week of October 25th - 29th: DVR’s Employer Week