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Everyone wins when people with disabilities work

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month. As a nonprofit supporting people with disabilities, we promote its significance to the community. Many individuals have employment as a goal, and we address their aspiration by connecting people to local employers, and by employing people with disabilities directly.

The key word this month is awareness. Though people with disabilities have made great strides in entering the workforce, there are still many challenges to address.

In the United States, the unemployment rate for people with disabilities remains over 70 percent. In fact, 27 percent of working-age Americans with disabilities live in poverty, compared to 11.9 percent of those without disabilities. Consider that nearly 10 percent of working-age people in the U.S. have a disability.

The economy is impacted when 18.3 million people are idle, as human potential is unrealized and benefits paid by taxpayers increase. In a bad economy, when people with disabilities cannot find work, utilization of disability benefits has skyrocketed.

In this environment, funding to support employing people with disabilities, particularly developmental disabilities, is eroding.

What can be done to ensure that people with disabilities fully take part in the workforce? Employers hold the key, and Adelante supports them as well.

We connect approximately 130 job seekers a year with local employers through our EmployAbility program, and as one of the nation’s largest Employment Networks for the Social Security Ticket to Work program.

However, stereotypes and fears often limit the hiring of people with more severe disabilities. People say, “The cost of adapting the office would be expensive” or “I’ve never hired anyone with autism.”

Most accommodations are simple and inexpensive. If even needed, typical investments are under $500, and reimbursable. The payoff is great. Research repeatedly shows people with disabilities are more dependable, loyal and productive than their non-disabled co-workers.

Adelante believes in developing a full array of employment options for potential employees with disabilities, providing informed choice about those options, with a presumption and priority of competitive employment. For people who so choose, Adelante operates social enterprises with a dual mission – to provide quality services to local businesses and government while extending a range of employment opportunities.

In each business, people have the chance to gain marketable skills, be promoted, improve their pay and interact with the community at large.

People with disabilities provide assembly, packaging, mailing, scanning, shredding, retail work and total facilities maintenance services.

Adelante Enterprises may be an individual’s first foray into the working world. We are proud that $1.8 million of our payroll this year went to employees with disabilities.

Adelante participates in national solutions to disability employment, including being a service provider for SourceAmerica. SourceAmerica develops employment opportunities through the federal government that provide wages and benefits, upward mobility and personal satisfaction for more than 50,000 people who have significant disabilities across the country.

In addition, Adelante works with Horizons of New Mexico, an organization that helps connect people with disabilities to State contracts. Adelante also helped form the Secure Document Alliance, banding nonprofits across the country to bid on national document destruction contracts. In each business, people with disabilities deliver a quality service at a fair market price.

We want the business community to put this segment of our operation out of business! Just hire people with disabilities. We will support you.

Everyone wins when people work and lessen their dependence on public funds. But whether a company hires a person directly or supports a social enterprise that hires the disabled, both have an impact.

We offer our appreciation, on behalf of the people we support, for the thousands of business customers who work with us and support our mission. Together, we are improving employment opportunities and choices for people with disabilities.

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