Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul and the New York State Office for People With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) joined forces to celebrate the 75th anniversary of National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) by recognizing the efforts of essential employees with developmental disabilities.
Lieutenant Governor Hochul met with four essential employees who received employment supports from AHRC New York City while they worked at Staten Island University Hospital throughout the COVID-19 public health emergency to thank them for their dedication. She also met with students in the Project Search program, a collaborative between the New York City Board of Education, AHRC New York City, New York State Access-VR, OPWDD and Staten Island University Hospital that places high school seniors who have special needs in internships that combines classroom learning with mentoring and work experience to help students build employment skills.
“While people with developmental disabilities are some of the most vulnerable of New York’s population, many of these essential employees continued their critical work during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. “I am privileged to meet four people today who are employed at Staten Island University Hospital and urge other businesses to partner with OPWDD to recognize the importance of employment opportunities for people with disabilities, and to be receptive to hiring these competent, loyal and reliable employees.”
NDEAM’s history is traced back to 1945 when Congress enacted a law declaring the first week in October each year "National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week." In 1962, the word "physically" was removed to acknowledge the employment needs and contributions of individuals with all types of disabilities. In 1988, Congress expanded the week to a month and changed the name to National Disability Employment Awareness Month. The 2020 NDEAM theme is “Increasing Access and Opportunity.”
OPWDD Commissioner Theodore M. Kastner said: “This year has been an especially trying one for businesses and employees alike. Over the past many months, as COVID-19 forced businesses to temporarily close their doors and send workers home, many with developmental disabilities remained working throughout this public health emergency. It is especially important for OPWDD to honor those who continued to work during this trying time.”
AHRC New York City supports over 15,000 individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities throughout the five boroughs and has one of the largest supported work and employment programs in the nation.
Marco Damiani, Chief Executive Officer, AHRC New York City said: “COVID-19 has laid bare many of the inequities in society, especially for those who experience disabilities. The promotion of self-worth and the opportunity to contribute to the world of work are urgently needed, now more than ever. Employers who provide real opportunity for meaningful jobs, and do so because it’s good for business, not a charitable gesture, are to be commended for underscoring the value of a diverse and inclusive workforce.”
Anne Marie McDonough, Sr Director Rehab Medicine at Staten Island University Hospital said: “Staten Island University Hospital is proud to partner with AHRC and lead by example in the employment of persons with developmental disabilities. These employees were highly dependable during the height of the pandemic, and provided essential environmental, nutrition and transport services. Working side by side on a daily basis with a person with developmental disability opens hearts and minds. In the short time after the Project Search Program was introduced here our employees saw first-hand the good effects of inclusion in the workplace in the persons’ life. Many colleagues stepped up to become mentors. When an employment training program is implemented thoughtfully it fosters a true sense of diversity and inclusion within the workplace.”