October Is National Disability Employment Awareness Month
Everyone wants to feel productive and to be doing something of value during the day. They want to have social connections and be involved in their communities. They also want jobs so that they can live their lives as independently as possible. And that includes people with autism and developmental disabilities.
I am excited about the future, and confident that together, we will continue to push for the full inclusion of people with autism and developmental disabilities in the workplace and in our communities. – Matt Sturiale, President and CEO, Birch Family Services
October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month. Originating with a 1945 act of Congress, NDEAM was enacted to promote employment opportunities for people with disabilities and highlights the fact that many Americans with disabilities are capable of making meaningful contributions to the workforce. Yet, while nearly 75 years have passed since that critical act of Congress, people with disabilities still have about an 80% unemployment or underemployment rate. This high percentage parallels the number of individuals on the autism spectrum believed to be unemployed, and it is unacceptable. However, I truly believe that this disheartening statistic can be turned around if corporations are willing to commit to the foundational principles of diversity and inclusion.
That’s why Birch launched its Corporate Advisory Network last year with the intent of bringing together corporations that believe in these crucial concepts — not as any type of accommodation, but more as means of creating access to opportunities for the individuals we support. The network serves as an advisory body and strategic partner committed to broadening their commitment to diversity and inclusion, sharing best practices, expertise, and opportunities that will help facilitate employment and internships.
Working in tandem, our New Frontier program provides young adults on the autism spectrum with vocational preparation, job acquisition, and ongoing employer and employee support so they can thrive in both their job search and chosen careers. Our staff assist participants to develop the skills they need to communicate appropriately, understand group social dynamics, and learn skills that lead to successful job placement. With the cooperation of our corporate partners, New Frontier is committed to supporting young adults with autism and developmental disabilities become successful in employment and gain further independence — and is succeeding.
Today, we have helped individuals obtain positions in museums and other cultural institutions, in the financial industry doing technology and data analysis, and in more frontline types of jobs such retail and messenger work. That’s why I am excited about the future, and confident that together, we will continue to push for the full inclusion of people with autism and developmental disabilities in the workplace and in our communities.
President & CEO
Birch Family Services