Hiring people with disabilities is not just a step toward being an inclusive part of your community- it’s also good business sense.

October is Developmental Disabilities Employment Awareness Month, an observance made more important this year in light of job losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The rate of new job growth for people with disabilities has slowed in recent years. Between March and April 2020, coinciding with business closures and restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic, the percent of adults with disabilities currently working decreased by nearly a quarter, declining from 18% to 14%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics monthly Current Population Survey.

Businesses that actively seek to employ people with disabilities outperform businesses that do not, according to a 2018 study by Accenture in partnership with the American Association of People with Disabilities. Their revenues were 28% higher, net income was two times more, and profit margins were higher by 30%. Businesses that hire people with disabilities also showed a major boost in employee retention.

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People with disabilities seeking assistance in their job search or job readiness training, as well as businesses looking to hire people with disabilities in New Jersey can contact Community Access Unlimited. CAU is an Elizabeth-based nonprofit that seeks to integrate individuals into the community through comprehensive supports.

“Everybody brings different skills, talents, experience and a diverse background to work,” said CAU Assistant Executive Director of Employment Sandra Lynch. “It [hiring people with disabilities] brings more talent to the workforce. People need to look at it as an opportunity, not an extra chore.”

CAU member Reginald Payne has worked at ShopRite for 28 years and also works at Target. He collects shopping carts and completes in-store maintenance, and he has a CAU job coach who makes weekly check-ins at his stores “to make sure I’m doing well and have no complaints,” Payne said.

“If I didn’t have a job it would be hard to take care of myself,” Payne said. “I pay my bills like rent, internet and my phone bill.”

CAU member Megan Modero was searching for a part-time job for much of the year. After 6 months of searching and with assistance from employment support counselor Feyikemi Jacob, Modero was thrilled to start a new job at Office Depot in late August. Modero cleans and organizes the store and will be training to be a sales consultant.

“It was pretty hard finding a job with the pandemic,  I was going thru a rough time and a lot of job searching,” Modero said. “Once I found this position I was comfortable with my job, it’s exciting for me.”

Modero said she was getting married in October and said she is relieved to have a regular income before the big day.

“I like getting paid,” Modero said. “We’re going on a honeymoon to Virginia so I’m very happy and satisfied to have some money before I go on my vacation.”

The Employment Services team acts as a liaison between employers and members to facilitate a win-win relationship for both parties. CAU offers comprehensive career planning, prevocational training and supported employment for small groups and individuals. Whether a person is seeking life skills training for job readiness or is searching for their dream position, CAU is equipped to provide the employment support needed.