July is Disability Pride Month, which celebrates the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act and raises awareness about the difficulties individuals with disabilities face. It’s an opportunity to recognize their significant contributions to society and resilience in overcoming discrimination and ableism.
Historically, people living with disabilities have faced discrimination in various aspects of life, including education, housing, health care, and especially employment. Based on 2022 employment data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, individuals with disabilities were significantly less likely to be employed than those without disabilities. The unemployment rate for people with disabilities was approximately double that of those without disabilities. Additionally, 30% of workers with disabilities had part-time employment, while only 16% of individuals without disabilities did.
Goodwill of North Georgia’s mission to put people to work has always included those with barriers to employment, including those with disabilities. This applies to both the employees hired internally and those who benefit from the 14 free-to-the-public career centers in North Georgia.
Our workforce development programs help individuals with disabilities by providing effective training methods to prepare them for competitive employment. Our services range from evaluating their work-related skills to providing retention services, vocational evaluations, and job placement efforts tailored to their unique needs. The results offer chances for individuals seeking employment to connect with job opportunities and experience the pride of working.
Lisa Smith is an excellent example how, with the right opportunity, anyone can succeed and thrive. Lisa was hit by a drunk driver, becoming paralyzed from the neck down at 27 years old. While recovering from the incident, Lisa received disability payments for two years. Not enough to support her family, Lisa began searching for new employment. She went through Goodwill’s vocational rehabilitation services program, learning to use Microsoft Word and type with a one-handed keyboard. Once she completed the program, she was placed with GTE (now Verizon). A few years later, Lisa came back to Goodwill searching for an employment opportunity and was hired at Goodwill and has been with the organization for more than 25 years.
Alex Balla has another great story. He has Spastic Paraparesis, a condition that causes weakness and stiffness in the legs, which is often inherited. Alex has been disabled since birth and did not start walking until he was four, despite undergoing multiple surgeries to gain mobility. In 2007, a friend referred him to Goodwill of North Georgia’s Workforce Development program, even though he did not speak English at the time. Alex received valuable training, work experience, and a new support network through the program. In 2017, Alex began a new career as a job coach at the Goodwill Decatur career center. In this role, Alex provides program participants with training for real-life work experiences and helps job seekers with resume building, job searching, and completing job applications – giving jobseekers the same opportunities he got years ago.
Celebrating Disability Pride Month is important because it recognizes the resilience and determination of people with disabilities who have overcome countless obstacles to achieve their goals. It promotes acceptance, inclusion, and awareness of people with disabilities, creating a more inclusive and accepting society where everyone has equal opportunities and is valued for their unique contributions. Let us all celebrate Disability Pride Month with pride and joy.