Kessler Foundation Commemorates National Disability Employment Awareness Month

Marketwired

WEST ORANGE, NJ--(Marketwired - Oct 10, 2013) -  To commemorate October as National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), Kessler Foundation continues to improve employment outcomes for people with disabilities through new partnerships, grantmaking, education, research and expanding opportunities.

"As we commemorate NDEAM, we remember that only abilities matter," said Rodger DeRose, president and chief executive officer of Kessler Foundation. "People with disabilities can, and want to, work. They just need to be given the opportunity to prove their skills. When more people with disabilities are in the workplace, they contribute their talents, businesses improve business process, which improves productivity, and more people earn paychecks that stimulate the economy. At Kessler Foundation, we are dedicated to expanding opportunities for employment for people with disabilities by funding sustainable and innovative employment initiatives around the nation." For national Disability Mentoring Day on October 16, a student from Horizon High School, in Livingston, N.J., will shadow DeRose and learn about running an organization.

To raise awareness of the importance of hiring people with disabilities, Kessler Foundation signed on as a partner of the Campaign for Disability Employment (CDE) -- and initiative of the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Disability Employment Policy. CDE promotes positive employment outcomes for people with disabilities by encouraging employers and society to recognize the skills and contributions that individuals with disabilities add to the workforce. As a partner, Kessler Foundation will promote the campaign while CDE shares the Foundation's work to increase employment opportunities for people with disabilities via social media.

"We are proud to partner with the Campaign for Disability Employment," said Elaine Katz, vice president of Grants and Special Initiatives at Kessler Foundation. "Our goals are similar -- to demonstrate to employers that when individuals with disabilities are hired, they succeed. Employers are starting to catch on. We are seeing more disability employment initiatives that Kessler Foundation initially funded be expanded and replicated across the nation."

Of the nearly 56 million Americans with disabilities, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, only 20.5 percent are employed. Since 2005, Kessler Foundation has awarded more than $27 million in grant funding to employment initiatives across the U.S. that create or expand employment opportunities for people with disabilities. This grant funding has led to approximately 3,000 individuals receiving job training and/or finding a job and earning a paycheck. Kessler Foundation supports initiatives in a variety of fields, including finance, retail, warehouse and logistical support, computer technology, hydroponics, telecommuting, document management, laboratory technology, social enterprise, self-employment, the arts and internship opportunities.

During the first week of October, DeRose and Elaine Katz, vice president of Grants and Special Initiatives at Kessler Foundation attended the U.S. Business Leadership Network's (USBLN) 16th Annual Conference and Expo, titled, "Lights, Camera, Access: Spotlight on Disability Inclusive Diversity." OfficeMax presented information on their "Maxing out Diversity" initiative, made possible by a $323,333 Signature Employment Grant from Kessler Foundation awarded to the Association of People Supporting EmploymentFirst (APSE). The newly opened Aspire CareerLink Training Center, in Ill., will supply job training and support through a specialized curriculum to prepare adults with disabilities for meaningful, professional careers in OfficeMax's distribution and retail centers. In the two-year grant period, the project will involve at least four OfficeMax facilities and support 40 jobseekers with disabilities. The first training session is expected later in October.

To educate society on the benefits of hiring people with disabilities, DeRose was interviewed on CNBC's Power Lunch in late August. He discussed why employing people with disabilities is a good business decision, how Kessler Foundation is expanding opportunities through funding disability employment initiatives, the current employment environment for people with disabilities and common myths that discourage employers from hiring jobseekers with disabilities. He reported that employers who hire jobseekers with disabilities note increased job dedication and productivity with decreased turnover, adding to the bottom line.

Since March, Kessler Foundation and the University of New Hampshire's Institute on Disability have been tracking the employment environment for people with disabilities, based on the statistics released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics the first Friday of every month. Trends in Disability Employment - National Monthly Update (TIDE) compare the month's data to the corresponding month of the previous year. While the first three months yielded positive results, subsequent reports showed mixed or negative results. On average, more people with disabilities are participating in the labor force by looking for work, but fewer are working; this is contrary to the employment environment for Americans without disabilities.

"We track employment data to keep the issue of employment for people with disabilities on the radar of American business and economic leaders," said DeRose. "By closely monitoring the numbers, more organizations can see the importance of devising solutions to provide employment opportunities for jobseekers with disabilities." The TIDE update was scheduled for October 4 but was cancelled due to the government shutdown.

About Kessler Foundation
Kessler Foundation, a major nonprofit organization in the field of disability, is a global leader in rehabilitation research that seeks to improve cognition, mobility and long-term outcomes, including employment, for people with neurological disabilities caused by diseases and injuries of the brain and spinal cord. Kessler Foundation leads the nation in funding innovative programs that expand opportunities for employment for people with disabilities. For more information, visit KesslerFoundation.org.

About the Campaign for Disability Employment
Funded by the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Disability Employment Policy, the Campaign for Disability Employment (CDE) promotes positive employment outcomes for people with disabilities by encouraging employers, and others, to recognize the value and talent people with disabilities bring to America's workplaces. As the force behind the national public outreach initiative, "What can YOU do?," the CDE has distributed two powerful public service announcements, "I Can" and "Because," which aim to raise awareness and change attitudes about disability and employment. The Campaign launched in 2009 as a collaborative effort between several leading disability and business organizations and today is supported by numerous partners interested in advancing employment opportunities for people with disabilities. To learn more, visit www.whatcanyoudocampaign.org

Contact:

Lauren Scrivo
973.324.8384
973.768.6583 - c
LScrivo@KesslerFoundation.org

Carolann Murphy
973.324.8382
CMurphy@KesslerFoundation.org
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