National Disability Employment Awareness Month: October

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With all that is going on in the world, let us not forget that October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month.  I would encourage employers to cast the net out, and cast it far.  When you are all looking for qualified and amazing employees, many times they are right there just waiting for an opportunity.  People with Disabilities are some of the most amazing individuals who just need an opportunity.  Be THAT employer who affords them the opportunity.  While many PWD’s have spent their lives being told what they cannot do, they have overcome and shown people what they can do.  .  Whether the individual has social interaction challenges, communication challenges, or is in a wheelchair, they are often overlooked. The fact is that they could in fact be an amazing asset to a company.  I dare say that Theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking was one of the most intelligent men to ever live.  But, he did things differently.  He was capable of doing things that people without disabilities could never do.  The term “differently abled” is the perfect way to describe individuals such as Stephen Hawking. 

I have met individuals who could not tie their shoes, but could tell me anything I would ever want to know about NASCAR.  They even had the ability to tell me things I did not care to know about NASCAR.  It was their “thing”.  It was their “love”, “passion”, and “fixation”.  They would smother and surround themselves in everything NASCAR for hours and hours, and it was still not get enough.

Imagine a PWD who loves working with numbers.  This person could easily spend hours adding subtracting, multiplying and dividing.  They do it all for fun.  Imagine how they would feel if someone wanted to pay them to work with numbers.  Maybe all they need is an accommodation for their wheel chair.  They may need a way to get into the building or a cubicle adapted for them. Imagine the pride in their heart.  All of those years of being treated as incomplete, and now someone sees their value.  Finally they are wanted and valued for their abilities.  But it is not an ability they just have, but it is one they treasure and love. 

I often think about NASA and all of the rockets being launched into space.  I wonder how many hundreds of people are involved in each launch.  I imagine how everything has to me measured and evaluated to the smallest degree.  I also wonder how many of those people were on the Autism Spectrum. Is it possible that the rockets may have never been launched without them?  Their brilliant minds allow them to understand and run variable of the launch, flight, and landing.  Many of them are human computers.  I have often said that if it were not for Autism Spectrum Disorders, the United States would be the dumbest country on the planet. 

I also think of a young man I knew that worked at a convenient store. He appeared to be on the Autism Spectrum.  He worked the register at times and did a good job, but there was no social interaction.  Never any conversation, but instead he was all business.  When the manager told him that it was time to sweep the parking lot, his whole purpose changed.  He was on a mission.  He would suit up with his fluorescent vest.  He would grab that broom and dust pan and enter his battle ground. Not a single piece of trash was safe in his parking lot.  Trash had no chance of escaping his capture.  When he was done, the lot was spotless.  He took pride in that parking lot.  In his mind, it was HIS parking lot, and HIS responsibility. There really are not many teenagers who would put that much time and effort in doing such a task, but to him, it meant everything.  When that lot was spotless, he was always proud to have accomplished his goal. 

So to sum it up, I would encourage all employers to look way beyond the disability and realize that every single person has abilities.  You just have to take the time to find it.  You have to care enough to find it.  I promise you that when you do, you and your business will be a success.  Not to mention that person with the disability will be proud, happy, and always wanting to give their employer their utmost.     

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