Different Perspectives, Better Solutions

Written By: 
Carole Vande Velde / Director of Marketing

Odds are high that everyone reading today’s blog knows October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. It’s been a cause worthy of attention since its inception in 1985. But there’s a different awareness event that traces its roots a full 40 years earlier, to 1945, when Congress enacted a law declaring the first week in October each year "National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week." In 1962, the word "physically" was removed to acknowledge the employment needs and contributions of individuals with all types of disabilities, and in 1988, Congress expanded the week to a month and changed the name to National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM).

If you’re at all familiar with ADC, you know we take seriously our responsibility to help others and use our time and resources towards the goal of bettering the world we live in. And NDEAM means a lot to us. Almost 30 ago, we hired our first developmentally disabled employee. We were a tiny firm, employing fewer than 10, and had published an ad seeking help in our production department. The only candidate to show up was a young man named Glen who rode his bicycle seven miles to our offices. He gave Marc Blitstein, our President and CEO, a note written by his mom asking that we give him a chance.

That encounter was the start of significant initiative that has resulted in ADC being one of New York’s largest private employers of the developmentally disabled. Today we employ around a dozen developmentally disabled individuals in positions ranging from quality control to production, from shipping to maintenance.

"Smart employers know that including different perspectives in problem-solving situations leads to better solutions,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta. “Hiring employees with diverse abilities strengthens their business, increases competition and drives innovation." At ADC, we agree wholeheartedly.

Supporting us in this initiative is AHRC Suffolk, a regional non-profit that works with more than 2,500 individuals with disabilities and their families. AHRC offers a range of services: educational, vocational, residential, and employment. We value this collaboration so much that we are proud to be one of their largest benefactors, raising well over $20,000 per year for the past decade. Their most important annual fundraiser, the Candlelight Ball, is just a few weeks away; visit www.ahrcsuffolk.org/clb-sponsors if you’d like to learn more.

Employers and employees in all industries can learn more about how to participate in National Disability Employment Awareness Month by visiting www.dol.gov/ndeam. Employers can also reach out to the local agencies serving this population. Most have supported work programs that will screen qualified candidates and train them. If you’re a consumer, support firms that make this commitment to the hiring of the developmentally disabled.