Leveling the Playing Field during National Disability Employment Awareness Month
October 2015 marks the 70th Anniversary of National Disability Awareness Month, a time when we celebrate the many and varied contributions of America's workers with disabilities. In recognition of this month, I would like to take a moment to reflect on how a more inclusive society can improve the lives of all Americans—not only those with disability and their families. In recent years, unemployment rates have remained significantly higher for individuals with disability (10.4%) compared to those without disability (5.1%). Thanks to the work of the Office of Disability Employment Policy at the Department of Labor and other public and private advocates, significant progress is being made to ensure youth and young adults with disabilities are included and have the same opportunities to reach their full potential.
Thinking about what it was like to grow up deaf and now reflecting on being a father, I understand what it takes for an individual with and without disabilities to strive to be competitive with their peers. Whether the competition is based on getting a better grade on a test, hitting more home runs, or doing great on an interview and landing your dream job, it is a lot easier when opposing factors are absent and everyone has an equitable chance to excel in school, sports, and at work!
As a former Major League Baseball player and current baseball coach at Gallaudet University, I see what equal opportunities can do to help my players reach the next level in sports and their professional careers. Coaching baseball allows me to promote inclusion and mentor student-athletes. Research has shown that equal access to physical activity equates to a highly productive individual in professional and social settings, including people with disabilities. When our environments are inclusive we better enable all people to thrive.
On the 70th Anniversary of National Disability Employment Awareness Month, let’s continue working together to create equal opportunities for every individual to be a positive contributor to society. Make a commitment to inclusion in your school or community. It’s an important first step in leveling the playing field for all Americans to create a more productive society. I encourage you to learn more about what it means to Commit to Inclusion and make your commitment today by visiting: www.committoinclusion.org.
Pictured above: Head Coach Curtis Pride (top row, second from left) and the 2015 Gallaudet University Baseball Team