Written on: July 20th, 2012 in Job Creation
About nine years ago, I visited what was then MBNA, now Bank of America, at a facility in Newark. There, the company employed about 300 people with disabilities who were responsible for a variety of tasks including making promotional materials. I met a young man, about 25 years old, who was making t-shirts. I asked him what he did before he got that job and he told me he sat at home for six years watching TV with his parents. A light bulb went off in my head.
This job not only offered him a paycheck, but significantly improved his quality of life. He had a greater purpose, the ability to be part of a team and to be part of something bigger than him. And for his family – this job meant he had some place to go, something meaningful to do and support outside his family network. In turn, their quality of life improved as well.
He is one of many people with disabilities I’ve had the fortune to meet over the years. While they each have a unique story to tell, they have a common desire: to be included – to be afforded the same opportunities as all others.
This past weekend, I was named chair of the National Governors Association and subsequently announced my NGA chair’s initiative – A Better Bottom Line: Employing People with Disabilities.
My initiative aims to increase employment among individuals with disabilities. Specifically, it will focus on the employment challenges that affect individuals with intellectual and other significant disabilities, including veterans that return wounded, and the role both state government and business can play in facilitating and advancing opportunities for these individuals to be gainfully employed in the competitive labor market.
I’m excited to start this initiative. Advancing employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities is the right thing to do, the smart thing for government to do and it makes good business sense.
Ultimately, there are so many people with disabilities who have the time, talent and desire to make meaningful contributions to interested employers. It doesn’t matter whether they were born with additional challenges to face or – in the case of our wounded veterans for example – acquired them later in life. What matters is what they have to offer and the tremendous impact this will have on their overall well-being.