From Hollywood to JFCS, October is National Disabilities Employment Month

JFCS is committed to ensuring a diverse, equitable and inclusive workplace

By Stacey Spencer • Inclusion Program Manager

The United States Congress declared National Disability Employment Awareness Month in 1988 to raise awareness of the employment needs and contributions of individuals with all types of disabilities. 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.

Employment opportunities are not always available for people with disabilities and they do not have equal access to jobs as their able-bodied counterparts. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment-population ratio – the proportion of the population that is employed – in 2018 was 19.1 percent among those with a disability. In contrast, the employment-population ratio for those without a disability was 65.9 percent.

Danny Woodburn is an actor and disability advocate who has made more than 30 appearances in film and 150 on television, including “Jingle All the Way,” “Death to Smoochy,” “Seinfeld” and “The Bold and the Beautiful.” He serves on the Screen Actors Guild Performers with Disabilities Committee and said “because there is still stigma around disability, people believe that disability means inability.” He said that in the film and television industry, unemployment for actors with disabilities runs has high as 95%.

He cites reasons for such high unemployment rates in Hollywood as the inequality in even the audition process, which can be exclusive and inaccessible. He told a story of an actor who uses a wheelchair that went to an audition for a television show, which was held in a non-ADA compliant building in New York on the second floor with no elevator access. He said that alone shuts out a whole population who can’t even get the opportunity to try out for the part!

Danny Woodburn

Because of this inequality for actors with disabilities, Woodburn serves on the SAG-AFTRA Performers With Disabilities Committee to help negotiate better terms for actors with disabilities. The committee’s mission is to achieve full access for and inclusion of performers and broadcasters with disabilities by working to increase employment opportunities and improve working conditions in all areas of entertainment and news media.

At Jewish Family and Children’s Service of Minneapolis, we congratulate Woodburn on his dedication and efforts to improve working conditions for people with disabilities in the entertainment world. Through our Vocational Rehabilitation and Extended Employment Program, we are working to do our part to extend employment and provide personalized services to individuals with disabilities who are seeking to improve their work lives or find employment.  We offer services such as job placement support, customized employment, extended employment, employment planning services, vocational evaluation, and pre-employment and training services to name a few.

Furthermore, our agency is committed to ensuring a diverse, equitable and inclusive workplace. Our working definition of inclusion is defined as “cultivating a workplace where every member is valued for their unique contributions and experiences a sense of belonging. An inclusive and welcoming environment embraces differences and offers respect in words and actions for all people.” Our working definition of equity is “fair treatment, access, and opportunity for all people, while at the same time striving to identify and eliminate barriers that have prevented the full participation of some groups.”

Think back to a day when you really enjoyed your job. What made it such a great day? Was it the sense of accomplishment or productivity that made you feel good? Was it something you did that positively affected or impacted others that made you feel good about yourself? Was it the ability to earn wages to help support yourself or your family?

Shouldn’t we all have the opportunity to experience a great work day and celebrate our job-related accomplishments and contributions, no matter our abilities?

For more information on JFCS’ Vocational Rehabilitation and Extended Employment Program, please call our Career Services Intake Line at 952-417-2111.  For more information on our Inclusion Program, contact Stacey Spencer at 952-542-4845.