Colorado employers encouraged to hire disabled job seekers

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper kicked off National Disability Employment Awareness Month with a proclamation and encouragement that employers consider what disabled employees can offer.

In 1945, Congress designated a week in October to recognize the skills and contributions of people with disabilities to the work force. In 1988, Congress expanded the week to a month.

National Disability Employment Awareness Month since has grown into an observance of ongoing efforts to expand employment opportunities for people with disabilities.

The theme this year for National Disability Employment Awareness Month is “inclusion works” and reflects what happens when employers create a culture of belonging; gain competent, dependable employees; and help workers with disabilities to stretch their limits.

For employers with concerns about the cost of providing accommodations to workers with disabilities, a study by the Job Accommodation Network, a service of the U.S. Labor Department, found that most employers reported low or no costs in making accommodations to employees with disabilities.

This year’s Disability Employment Awareness Month takes on added significance in Colorado.

In July, the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation was transferred from the Department of Human Services into the Department of Labor and Employment. As noted in Senate Bill 15-239  authorizing the move, the transfer is intended to provide a more comprehensive and integrated approach to getting unemployed individuals with disabilities trained in skills for today’s jobs and into the workforce.

The Division of Vocational Rehabilitation and Workforce Centers across the state can help businesses learn about this employment option. Staff can answer questions and help employers learn more about qualified job seekers with disabilities.

“This is a valuable resource that is being regrettably underutilized,” said Ellen Golombek, executive director of the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment.

“In hiring workers with disabilities, you’re more likely to find dedicated employees who are willing to go the extra mile to be productive,” Golombeck said. “Individuals with disabilities exhibit higher retention rates, are extremely productive and are prone to be problem-solvers because they have had to solve serious problems all their lives.”