Assistant Secretary Martinez Meets with Disability Employment Leaders at Kessler Foundation
2012-01-27 15:51:57 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
WEST ORANGE, N.J.—Kathleen Martinez, Assistant Secretary of Labor for the Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP), came to Kessler Foundation on Friday, January 27th to hear presentations from employment initiatives supported by the Foundation and strategize for the future of employment policies for individuals with disabilities. Her visit follows Kessler Foundation’s announcement of distributing $2.7 million in grant funding to innovative disability employment programs across the nation.
“Kessler Foundation is the gas that fuels the programs to provide job opportunities for people with disabilities,” said Ms. Martinez. “Its creativity, innovation and team-building serve as a catalyst for creating sustainable employment options for the disability community.” She heard presentations on the successful strategies from other non-profits and social enterprises that promote employment for individuals with disabilities, including Hudson Community Enterprises, AHEDD, Jewish Vocational Services, Family Resource Network, Employment Horizons, Arthur & Friends and JFK Johnson Rehabilitation Institute.
Elaine Katz, vice president of Grants and Special Initiatives at Kessler Foundation, said, “Having a diverse workforce sparks new ideas that benefit consumers. We must make sure that people with disabilities, who represent the largest minority group in the nation with 54 million, are considered an integral part of workplace diversity.”
Government support is also important. By executive order, President Obama is requiring all federal agencies to increase the hiring of people with disabilities. ODEP recently launched the Add Us In initiative, which identifies and develops strategies to increase employment opportunities for job-seekers with disabilities in the small business market, especially those owned by minority groups. These businesses are creating jobs at a faster rate than the national average.
According to the 2010 Kessler Foundation/NOD Survey of Americans with Disabilities, nearly 80 percent of working-age individuals with disabilities are unemployed. “We need to practice what we preach by demonstrating that we can be successful in hiring people with disabilities in all sectors and have an inclusive workforce wherever possible,” said Ms. Martinez. “Growing up as a blind girl in the 1970s, I wasn’t encouraged to go to college. I was placed as a factory worker. Even now, society tends to have very low expectations of people with disabilities. We need to raise our expectations and understand that their abilities outweigh limitations.”
About Kessler Foundation
Kessler Foundation is the largest public charity in the field of disability. Kessler Foundation Research Center advances care through rehabilitation research to improve quality of life for persons with spinal cord and brain injury, stroke, multiple sclerosis, and other neurological conditions. Kessler Foundation Program Center fosters new approaches to the persistently high rates of unemployment among people with disabilities across the nation. Since 2005, the Foundation has distributed more than $20 million for employment projects for individuals with disabilities. Find us at KesslerFoundation.org and on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.