JSU honors employees with disabilities

Madison Bailey, News Correspondent

On Tuesday, October 29, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion at Jacksonville State University hosted a “Lunch and Learn” at the Houston Cole Library to celebrate National Disability Employment Awareness Month.

Free lunch was provided at the event followed by an informative presentation from the featured speaker, Patrick Daugherty with the Alabama Department of Rehabilitation. Daugherty educated participants on the issues facing disabled workers, including Resources for Employment And Disability Information Network (READI Net), the Silver Tsunami, and Retaining A Valued Employee (RAVE).

As a business relations consultant for Alabama, Daugherty collaborates with businesses and individuals with disabilities through a variety of programs in order to create an efficient and fair transition from school to the workplace. One of these programs is READI Net, which offers a large variety of services and opportunities for businesses and employees with disabilities.

Daugherty discussed the percentage of older workers who are trying to stay in the workforce and used the example of 30.8 million baby boomers in the workforce.

“Seven out of 10 [baby boomers] plan on working after age 65,” said Daugherty. “It’s a pretty large number, so companies need to be prepared for what we call the Silver Tsunami. As people get older, there are going to be a lot more people with disabilities popping up in the workplace.”

Daugherty went on to explain the RAVE program, which can benefit a worker who develops a disability if the employer and worker mutually agree that the worker should receive accommodations in order to keep him or her in that job. 

“[Vocational Rehabilitation] will come in and determine if it qualifies under RAVE” said Daugherty. “If it does, we’ll bring in a counselor and an engineer to work with that person to devise an accommodation.”

Daugherty ended the presentation with some facts about disability in America, stating that the earnings for people with disabilities is $19,745 compared to $30,285 for those without disabilities, which is a “big discrepancy in the income of people with disabilities compared to individuals without.”

He also revealed that 23 percent of people with disabilities live in poverty and concluded the presentation by saying,

“If you wonder why there is National Employment Disability Awareness Month and why we stress Vocational Rehabilitation, that is the reason – that is what we are trying to overcome.”

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