OCTOBER 1, 2023

The Mental Health Empowerment Project (MHEP) joins the broader Disability Community celebrating  October as National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), a time to reflect on the strides made in advancing equal employment opportunities and inclusive work environments for people with disabilities. New York State boasts over 4000 Certified Peer Specialists, all of whom are a beacon of hope and a testament to the strength inherent in diversity and mutual support.

October serves as a poignant reminder of our collective responsibility to foster environments where individual abilities are valued and where everyone has the opportunity to contribute their skills and talents to society.

People with disabilities bring a diverse range of skills, talents and perspectives to the workforce, enriching our communities and industries. In recognition of this, we must advocate for equitable, inclusive and accessible workplaces that offer meaningful, competitive and integrated employment. The emphasis should be on providing an environment where every individual – regardless of their abilities – can thrive and succeed based on their merit and capabilities.

MHEP works to dismantle stigma surrounding disability. MHEP urges everyone to embrace the spirit of inclusivity and to recognize and respect the rights of people with disabilities to participate fully and equally in the workforce.

MHEP calls on state and federal elected officials to acknowledge the persistent disparities and inequities in employment opportunities available to people with disabilities. MHEP urges the Executive to eliminate subminimum wage across all sectors through an executive order. Subminimum wage perpetuates a cycle of poverty and marginalization among people with disabilities and serves as a barrier to achieving financial independence and self-sufficiency. It is crucial to enact policies that uphold the dignity, value and worth of every individual, irrespective of their disability.

Eliminating subminimum wage will act as a catalyst for transforming the labor market into a more inclusive and equitable space, ensuring that all employees – regardless of their abilities – receive fair compensation for their work. This would also send a clear message to employers and the society at large that the rights of people with disabilities to equal pay for equal work are recognized and respected.

Furthermore, achieving meaningful, competitive, integrated employment for all is a shared responsibility that requires collaboration and commitment from all sectors of society – government, employers and community organizations. By fostering an inclusive work culture, providing reasonable accommodations and offering equal opportunities for advancement, we can ensure that people with disabilities have the chance to realize their full potential and contribute meaningfully to our shared community.

As we commemorate National Disability Employment Awareness Month, let us remember that an inclusive society is one that recognizes the value and potential of every individual. Let us strive to create a world where diversity is celebrated and equal opportunities are provided to everyone. MHEP looks forward to continuing to work toward inclusive, equitable and accessible employment opportunities for people with disabilities.

We hope to see a future where the principles of equality, dignity and respect underpin every action and policy, fostering an inclusive society where everyone can achieve their dreams and aspirations.