National Disability Employment Awareness Month

  • Published
  • By Mark Kjellerson
  • 28th Mission Support Squadron
The United States can be described as a melting pot made up of differing cultures, ethnicities and other groups of people. One group that is often overlooked is people with disabilities. 

In this country, the most recent census reported there were more than 50 million disabled individuals. For employment, disabled individuals face a dismal prospect of finding productive careers and suffer from an employment rate of only 46 percent. This means that only 27 million disabled individuals are actually employed. 

The issue is not that this population does not want to work. The truth is they do, but are sometimes not warmly received by prospective employers. Some employers have negative stereotypes of disabled individuals not having the skills and abilities to achieve the necessary work; some are more concerned about what their customers think, while others are concerned about the potential costs associated with providing reasonable accommodations. 

The truth about disabled individuals is contrary to what many non-disabled individuals perceive. A briefer at a conference after the Department of Defense Disability Awards revealed research has been conducted to separate myth from reality, it was found that disabled individuals make wonderful employees. Many companies have reported that employees with disabilities actually have better retention rates then their non-disabled peers saving organizations millions of dollars lost due to employee turnover. The research goes on to report that employee absenteeism is actually less among disabled workers as compared to non-disabled employees.

As to organizational costs for reasonable accommodations, the same research has found the average cost to accommodate a disabled worker was less than $500. In fact, 73 percent of employers reported that their employees with disabilities did not require any accommodations at all. 

The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 was enacted to give those severely disabled individuals a level playing field in which to find meaningful work. People with severe disabilities can be considered for employment by selective placement programs allowing the individual to compete through normal competitive procedures, or in some circumstances, be hired non-competitively. 

To find out more about the special hiring procedures for individuals with disabilities and whether you may qualify or if you are a federal government hiring official who may be interested in finding a qualified person with a disability to work for you, please contact Mark Kjellerson, the Ellsworth Special Emphasis Program Manager for People with Disabilities at 385-4663.

Editor's Note: President Bush declared October as National Disability Employment Awareness Month. The President's proclamation can be read in it's entirety at
Mr. Kjellerson was recently named the Air Combat Command 2006 Outstanding Employee with Disabilities. His citation included, "He co-chaired the family deployment line, giving family members information on the deployment process thus easing their anxiety and co-facilitated the exceptional deployed families holiday party. His efforts positively impacted an additional 1,443 active duty personnel and family members."