In 1945, the United States Congress designated the first week of October as a time to spread awareness about employment for people with physical disabilities. Over the past 25 years, this awareness expanded to include the employment of people with intellectual disabilities. The time frame during which a spotlight is focused on the value of employment of people with disabilities in the workforce was extended to a month, resulting in National Disability Employment Awareness Month.
Approximately 10,000 people have become employed through AHRC New York City’s Employment and Business Services department during the 40 year period in which the services have been offered. On Wednesday, October 30, 2013, an employer appreciation event was hosted at in AHRC NYC’s home office, to celebrate this accomplishment, and to show appreciation for the companies that employ people with disabilities through AHRC NYC programs.
What it Means to Have Work
While welcoming guests to the event, Gary Lind, Executive Director, AHRC New York Cityspoke to the importance that employment plays in the lives of people with disabilities. “This is ultimately about peoples’ human rights and civil rights. What we’re trying to do is to make sure that people have a rightful place in the workforce, and that’s what AHRC does each and every day. When somebody gets a paycheck – when somebody has the opportunity to do something interesting each and every day, it really changes their world.”
Addressing AHRC New York City staff, Laura Kennedy, President, AHRC New York City Board of Directors, gave thanks, saying, “As a parent of a young woman with a disability, I can tell you, you all are the light that brings everyone to the community, through these jobs. I compliment the staff and all of you here, for what you have done over the past 40 years, to support the people we serve. It’s phenomenal.”
Victor Calise, Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities, attended the event as a special guest. Mr. Calise and his staff operate as the principal liaison between the Mayor, and New Yorkers with disabilities, by working with city agencies to make sure that they can provide services for people with disabilities on a grand scale. He spoke about the important role that work has for people in society, and pointed out that at some point in each person’s life, as they age, they will eventually know what it feels like to have a disability. “The disability doesn’t really lie within the person. The disability is found in the barriers of our environment. If we can take away those barriers, then people with disabilities are just people, plain and simple.”
Honoring Workers with Disabilities
Tarrell Hicks has provided custodial services for New York Hospital Queens for the past two and a half years, and was one of the employees who addressed the event’s audience. “It’s a good job, because I get to talk with doctors and nurses every day,” said Tarrell. “This job has been a great opportunity for me.”
Albert Papino was one of the first employees hired by SHREDability, an AHRC New York City business that provides secure document destruction, while employing people with disabilities. When he joined the SHREDability team in 2011, Albert was a Sorter, and learned his job task quickly. After demonstrating his motivation, Albert learned to use the shredding machine, a major responsibility, requiring him to ensure the timely shredding of documents. Since that time, Albert’s efficiency and productivity has increased, and his work has earned some recognition from NYSID Preferred Source Solutions. Albert recently received a 2013 NYSID Joslin Award, which recognizes outstanding job performance and personal success by people with disabilities who are employed on NYSID preferred source contracts.
During the event, the following companies were honored for their partnership with AHRC New York City, in providing jobs for the people the organization supports:
Barnes and Noble
Brooklyn Roasting Company
Burlington Coat Factory
Indian Road Cafe
Lackman Culinary Services
New York Cares
New York Hospital Queens
NYSID Preferred Source Solutions
“AHRC New York City is fortunate to have partners from the business community such as NYSID, who work with us to create hundreds of opportunities for people with disabilities,” said Sal Moran, Associate Director of AHRC NYC’s Employment and Business Services. “Good paying positions that mean a life change for many of the individuals we serve, every single day.”
“What really makes this work is that within AHRC New York City, we have a lot of staff who really care about helping an individual to be successful in the workplace,” said Steve Towler, Associate Executive Director of AHRC New York City, while thanking the evening’s guests. “They do so much work behind the scenes to help individuals to prepare for work, to find and maintain jobs, and to find happiness in the workplace. I want to thank the AHRC staff, and also the business community that stands behind these efforts. We’re doing the right thing, and it’s something that everyone should feel really good about.”