Held each October, National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) is a national campaign that raises awareness about disability employment issues and celebrates the many and varied contributions of America’s workers with disabilities. The theme for 2013 is “Because We Are EQUAL to the Task.”

Employers welcoming of the talents of all people, including people with disabilities, are a critical part of efforts to build an inclusive community and strong economy. In this spirit, Gogebic Community Mental Health Authority is recognizing National Disability Employment Awareness Month this October to raise awareness about disability employment issues and celebrate the many and varied contributions of people with disabilities.

The CMH Supported Employment staff will be presenting disability awareness and etiquette to the 4th, 5th and 6th grade students in the Watersmeet School District in the month of October, similar to presentations presented to the Wakefield-Marenisco, Bessemer and Ironwood School Districts in 2012.

Labor statistics for 2012 indicated over 37 million Americans are classified as disabled; approximately 12% of the population. More than 50% of disabled Americans are in their working years (18 to 64 years of age). The employment rate for citizens with a disability is 17.8% as opposed to 63.9% for citizens without a disability. Unfortunately, employment statistics for citizens with developmental disabilities and severe mental illness are even worse with an employment rate of less than 12% and 15%, respectively. Without question, social stigma and a general lack of understanding toward citizens with disabilities plays a large factor in such disappointing employment rates.


Based on these statistics, it is easy to determine the need of continuing disability employment awareness and advocacy.
To fill this need, CMH employs two full-time Employment Training Specialists which comprise the Supported Employment Program. Supported Employment offers services to citizens with developmental disabilities and mental illness. Services are tailored to the needs and wants of each individual client. Services offered include on the job evaluation, job development, job training, support services, follow along services and volunteer services.

The goal of the CMH Supported Employment Program is to promote independence by assisting clients in securing successful community-based, integrated employment. This is accomplished through assistance from the Employment Training Specialists. Areas of assistance may include job searching, resume writing, completing employment applications, interview preparation and employer contacts.

Once a job is secured, the Employment Training Specialist serves as a liaison between the employee and employer. To ensure successful employment, on the job training assistance is provided along with continued follow along services throughout the length of employment. It is important to note that the Employment Training Specialist have as much responsibility to the employer as they do to the client. It cannot be overstated that the goal is SUCCESSFUL employment.

Above and beyond financial independence, employment is crucial for people’s social integration as well as physical and mental well-being. This is no different whether you have a disability or not. For most, employment is simply a natural course throughout one’s life. This “course” for those with disabilities may involve numerous roadblocks and detours. For many with disabilities, the only true barrier to employment is social stigma as they are able to offer valuable skills to employers.

For those clients that may not be quite ready for employment or may simply want to help out in the community, we offer volunteer placement services. This provides an opportunity for our clients to have a sense of community involvement.

As the Supported Employment Supervisor with CMH, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the many employers and volunteer sites, current and past, for their support.

As National Disability Awareness Month enters and exits in October, the CMH Supported Employment Program will continue to promote and advocate employment opportunities for citizens with disabilities.

For more information on
Supported Employment
Services, please contact Jeff Richards
at 906-229-6163.

National Disability Employment Awareness Month – October 2013