High Contrast

2021 NDEAM poster showing outline of USA with people of diverse abilities all around the country

While the national observance of National Disability Employment Awareness Month is at an end, the work to increase the number of inclusive workplaces and job opportunities for individuals with disabilities continues year-round at Starbridge.

A few of our staff shared their insights on the importance of employment options:

Q. In your experience, what difference does employment make for an individual?

Christina Eisenberg, Director of Employment Equity:

“Employment for any person is the core of everything in their life. Without gainful employment, individuals with disabilities risk stability with regards to healthcare, housing, basic needs such as food. Employment for an individual with a disability also provides an opportunity to contribute to their community and society as a whole, which builds self-sufficiency, confidence, and relationships.”

Joyce Steel, Director of Family Advocacy, and Maritza Cubi, Family Support Services Manager:

“When people with disabilities are employed and receive salaries that are commensurate with their non-disabled peers (in non-segregated work places):

  • Increased self-esteem/self-worth
  • Increased income means increased buying power
  • Increased financial independence (which hopefully means better living standards)
  • Access to better health insurance and health care
  • Opportunities to increase their skill set, career growth – including leadership skills
  • Opportunities to increase their social capital"

Q. What would you like to see changed to make workplaces more inclusive?

Christina Eisenberg:

“I would ideally like to see workplaces naturally consider inclusive hiring practices as part of their diversity initiatives and not a separate initiative. We work with employers to help them see the business case for hiring individuals with disabilities and ensuring the barriers decrease to gainful employment.”

Joyce Steel and Maritza Cubi:

“People with disabilities should have a voice and a seat at the table when organizations are talking about how to make a workplace more inclusive. Initiatives around Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) must include people with disabilities.

Managers and employees may need specific training to better understand disabilities, get more comfortable in interacting with coworkers and clients, and learn how to accommodate needs. Don’t make people with disabilities beg for accommodations. Trust them and respond positively and timely to their needs.”

Q. What should families of children with disabilities do to prepare them for the transition to adulthood?

Jenny Hutkowski, Director of Family and Youth Education:

“It is never too early to start conversations with your child about what kinds of jobs they might like to have when they are adults. Developing a shared vision can be a pathway to them reaching their goals later in life. Also, the more you encourage your child to dream for their future and speak up for themselves, the stronger their self-advocacy skills will be.”

Ursula Nicholson, MFT, Director of Employment Services:

“Advocate, encourage, and be resourceful. Prepare your child to learn how to advocate for their own needs, wants, and options in the workforce. Encourage your child to try a variety of job experiences that will give them the tools to figure out what career paths they may want. Use the resources within the community, school district, etc. to better understand possible barriers and supports/programs that are available.”

Christina Eisenberg:

“As an individual born with my disability, I have always pushed myself to go above and beyond in all that I do. I was on home instruction education until age 13 and many times in life mapped out the future I wanted for myself. I worked hard to gain a Master’s Degree and obtain a job in the field of disability inclusion so that the obstacles that I faced reaching my goals would decrease for the next person with a disability.”