Celebrating Disability Employment Awareness Month
by Dow Constantine, King County Executive
Each October, King County celebrates National Disability Employment Awareness Month and the many contributions that people with disabilities make to our community.
The theme of this year’s celebration is “Disability: Part of the Equity Equation,” and it highlights the importance of people with disabilities to a diverse, inclusive, and thriving American workforce. Every person must have the opportunity to fulfill their potential and fully participate in everything that our region has to offer. Every person must have the opportunity to share their unique abilities. That’s how we will all succeed.
However, we still have a long way to go to create true equity in employment for everyone. Just 37% of people with disabilities aged 16 to 64 are employed compared to 75% of those without disabilities. These statistics unfortunately have not changed much since the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed in 1990. We are making progress though, particularly in this region. The disability employment rate in Washington State is 40%; in King County it is 46%, much higher than the national average, though still far lower than it needs to be.
At King County, we continue to do take actions to reduce the barriers that people with disabilities face when seeking employment and in all areas of their lives. The County offers many programs and services that support people with disabilities and build a more inclusive workforce and community, from specialized access to public transit to Accessible Voting Centers with audio or large print ballots and other assistive devices. I encourage you to look at all the services you provide to see if there is a way to make them more accessible and more equitable.
In our own workforce, our Supported Employment Program is helping employees with developmental and intellectual disabilities find and maintain employment opportunities in King County government. Our Disability Services Program helps employees with disabilities access accommodations and resources so they can continue their important work for our community, sometimes in new or adjusted roles.
Our newest Employee Affinity group, King County Disability Equity Network (KCDEN), launched in January 2022. The group serves employees and the broader disability community by providing fellowship, support, and co-creation of equitable policies and programs. Meetings are the second Tuesday of every month. For more information, contact email@example.com or visit King County’s Affinity Groups webpage.
By working together and seeking out opportunities to ensure access and equity for all, we can further break down barriers and truly make this community one where every person can thrive.