Letter: October is Disability Employment Awareness Month

from Rachel Berube of Community Connections

Letter to the editor:

A few of you may know this, but many will not,  October is Disability Employment Awareness Month. This is a time to bring awareness to local businesses about how hiring a disabled individual can affect lives and bring change to our society as a whole. Before working as an Employment Specialist for Community Connections Inc., I admit I had no comprehension of this service, but as I now approach my 1 year anniversary I have learned so much that I wish to share.

Many people probably think they have had limited interaction with a disabled individual, but truth is you may not have even known the person who helps you at the local grocery store, or the sweet girl who always says hello to you when you go into your local fast food restaurant is indeed labeled as disabled. Make no mistake the label is not entirely accurate, for many have skills and strengths that  people who are so called "normal" do not. This population has some of the most amazing people you will ever meet! They have huge personalities, a sunny disposition and want to work; not for the financial gain, but because they want to be of service to others.

Many companies pass on  the disabled and overlook the positive rewards to employing  them. This is unfortunate because they are never going to know the joy of making a difference in someone's life just by giving them a chance. In this quick paced world we live in isn't it refreshing to be around an energy of positivity and a work ethic that is second to none! I have learned this in my time at Community Connections. The organization has provided employment services for over 20 years, operating on the belief that anyone who wants to be employed is employable at competitive wages with local companies. Part of my job as an employment specialist is to match a candidate with a position by evaluating their interests, aptitude and skills. I offer job coaching and on-site assessments to ensure job performances and help businesses create positions for some individuals. More than 240 people with disabilities take advantage of Community Connections' employment services.

Adults and high school students with disabilities can work with Community Connections employment specialists for opportunities in Rhode Island and Massachusetts' South Coast and Cape Cod areas. For more information on the work we do, visit www.communityconnectionsinc.org.

The disabled people we serve have enough of a disadvantage in life without being overlooked by society. They are just like you and I. They have hopes and dreams, but on a smaller scale than us. A simple 10 hour a week position gives them such a feeling of accomplishment. It boosts their self esteem, makes them feel included, and quite frankly makes a huge difference in their day to day life! It gives them a reason to get out of bed, something to look forward to, a social aspect to their day. What they bring to the employer is effort, commitment, smiles and a grateful heart.

Change only comes about when people stand up for what is right. Equality and inclusion for all! I would ask any of the readers to reach out to employers and encourage change and openness. There is nothing to lose when you allow humanity to prevail and give opportunity to deserving individuals who just so happen to be disabled in some way. Let's all work to provide an avenue for these hard working, dedicated individuals to find gainful employment!

Sincerely,

Rachel Berube

Community Connections Inc. Employment Specialist


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