By Congresswoman Susan Davis and David W. Schneider, The Arc
More than 20 years ago, Congress designated October as National Disability Employment Awareness Month to raise awareness about the benefits of employing people with disabilities. During October, we celebrate the achievements of these individuals, many of whom have experienced greater independence and transitioned into taxpayers. However, despite these successes, challenges persist.
Nearly 35 million Americans and an estimated 18 percent of San Diegans have disabilities, the majority of whom are unemployed. These individuals experience high unemployment rates and are our greatest untapped labor resource.
Many misconceptions about employing people with disabilities exist including the perception that they are not reliable or productive and require costly adjustments. However, studies find employees with disabilities perform on par or better than their non-disabled peers concerning safety, job performance, attendance, and retention. Most workers with disabilities do not require adjustments, and those that do often require minimal adaptations. Further, the Social Security Administration notes employing people with disabilities saves taxpayers over $7,000 per person in government subsidies.
In partnership with The Arc of San Diego, over 115 local employers currently employ people with disabilities, including the Marine Corps, MTS, Target, Vons, JC Penney, Old Navy and the city of Vista. These employers help provide financial stability, increased self-esteem, and better quality of life for people with disabilities. We applaud them for their leadership and urge others to follow their lead.
The Arc has placed thousands of San Diegans in jobs, allowing them to reduce their reliance on government aid, pay into social security and taxes, and enrich the lives of others. By applauding those employers who have proudly selected a diverse workforce and urging others to consider employing people with disabilities, we are helping make our community a better place for all.
Susan Davis represents the 53rd Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.
David W. Schneider is president and CEO of The Arc of San Diego.