Employees With Disabilities: Promoting Workplace Equity

with Angela Williams of Easterseals

The unemployment rate for people with disabilities is 7.2%, compared to 3.6% unemployment among the general population.

Angela Williams, President and CEO of Easterseals, joins host Tetiana Anderson to discuss how people with disabilities can overcome barriers to employment.

Posted on:

Oct 07, 2019

Produced by: National Newsmakers Team

Anderson: Americans with disabilities face disproportionately high unemployment. In 2018, the workforce participation rate for people with disabilities was 19%. That's according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Compare that statistic to people without disabilities, and the rate rises to 66%. Hello, and welcome to "Comcast Newsmakers." I'm Tetiana Anderson. Joining me to talk about this employment gap is Angela Williams. She is the president and C.E.O. of Easter Seals.] Angela, thank you so much for being here.

Williams: Thank you.

Anderson: Explain to us why there's such a stark contrast in these employment rates.

Williams: A couple of reasons, I believe One, people with disabilities are not given the opportunity and the chance by corporations. Secondly, corporations don't know how to incorporate people with disabilities into the workplace. But then, thirdly, I actually believe some of employers don't even realize that they have people with disabilities already on their staffs, because disability is not only physical, but it can also be hidden, in terms of intellectual disability, mental health, et cetera.

Anderson: So, this is really about sort of workforce development initiatives.

Williams: Yes, it is.

Anderson: Talk to us about some of the partnerships that Easter Seals is making with various companies, and explain what the companies are getting out of this, too.
Williams: Well, first of all, I'll start with, what they're getting out of is a very loyal employee -- someone who is willing to work hard, because they want to do the best that they can, and skilled employee. So, for example, in our southern Florida affiliate, they have a culinary program. And they train people with disabilities to go out, and work in restaurants. And that's wonderful. We have another program for seniors called the "Senior Community Service Employment Program," which is a public private venture with the federal government. And what we do is train older workers that want to get back into the workforce, help them with skills, help them with résumés, job interviews, and actually find them a job either in a non-profit or with a state or local government.

Anderson: So, who are some of the private companies that you guys are working with. I think it would be interesting for people to know that maybe some of the businesses that they are patrons of are actually working with you.

Williams: Well, one great partner that we just recently started at the national level is with Dow Jones and the Wall Street Journal. And Dow Jones invited me just a few months ago to come and launch their Disability Resource Group, which is fantastic, and it's comprised of employees. We're also taught -- we work with a lot of local businesses in communities around the country, because those local businesses are willing to take on someone with a disability. And we're able to work with them provide job coaching, all of the support that the person with a disability needs to function.

Anderson: So, the personal stories are, a lot of times, what people care about. So, explain some of the people, and what they're up to that that Easter Seals has has been working with. What's the impact?

Williams: Well, one particular young man who I've met several times, and I absolutely love him, is Cody. Cody has an intellectual disability. And ever since he was a kid he wanted to grow up to be a firefighter. So, with the help of Easter Seals and our intervention over the years, Cody was able to pass all of the physical tests and everything that he needed to do in order to be a volunteer firefighter. He's in southern Georgia. And Cody is so proud to wear his uniform, and stand by that red fire engine.

Anderson: What does this do when people see Cody in the community working as a volunteer firefighter? This isn't just about Cody. This isn't just about the fire department. But this is about a wider message.

Williams: It sure is. It's the wider message is that even people with disabilities should be 100% included and 100% empowered. And what they see is that difference doesn't mean deficient. It just means different. And so, as human beings, if we connect with people wherever they are, and however they show up, that we can make the world a better place. And it's really a good story.

Anderson: You guys work a lot in the veterans community, as well. Do you have a story that you can share with us about a veteran that you have impacted?

Williams: Yes. So, actually in Washington D.C. we have what's called the "Veteran Staffing Network," which is run by our D.C. Maryland Virginia affiliate. And they do incredible wrap-around services where they provide every veteran that has mental health issues support, as well as that veteran's family. And then, they provide support in résumé, reintegrating back into civilian life, [00:05:09.08] helping with the job placement. And it's incredible what we're able to do to support our veterans.

Anderson: So, quickly, if there is a small business medium business, large business who wants to partner with you, what do they do?

Williams: They should contact us on our website, easterseals.com. And we are always welcoming those phone calls. In fact, we received such phone call about a week ago from a well-known auto parts company here in the United States, and said, "We want to hire] more people with disabilities. Can we work with you?" And other companies are doing the same thing. So, we're grateful for that.
Anderson: Angela Williams thank you for being here.

Williams: Thank you

Anderson: And thank you for joining us, as well. For more great conversations with leaders in your own community, and across the nation, Visit comcastnewsmakers.com. I'm Tetiana Anderson.

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