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October is Disability Employment Awareness Month in Minnesota

10/3/2023 8:48:37 AM

St. Paul - Governor Tim Walz has proclaimed October as Disability Employment Awareness Month in Minnesota, in recognition of the skills, experience and dedication that people with disabilities contribute to the labor force and our state's economy.

This year marks several major milestones in disability employment. It's the 50th anniversary of the National Rehabilitation Act, which was the first federal law aimed at providing equal access for people with disabilities by removing employment, architectural and transportation barriers. In Minnesota, it's the 50th anniversary of the state law that prohibits disability discrimination in employment, and the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Minnesota Council on Disability.

"As we look back on the past half century and all that has been done to remove barriers to people with disabilities reaching career goals, we also acknowledge that much work remains to be done," said Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) Commissioner Matt Varilek. "People with disabilities continue to experience significantly higher unemployment than those without disabilities. DEED is focused on raising awareness about disparities and working to welcome more people to fulfilling employment – this month and all year round."

"People with disabilities still encounter barriers to fulfilling employment in Minnesota. Often these barriers are based on misinformation, stereotypes and ableism. If we want to increase opportunities for all Minnesotans, we must break down barriers and provide accurate information about people with disabilities," said Minnesota Council on Disability Executive Director David Dively. "The world was not built with us in mind. We move, think and look differently than the dominant culture. To thrive in such a culture, we need to be adaptable, a skill sought after by employers. Our vision is a barrier-free Minnesota where people with disabilities are independent – free to access and participate in every area of life."

DEED's Labor Market Information (LMI) Office recently conducted updated analysis on the employment status of people with disabilities in Minnesota. One of the findings: based on the most updated annual averages from the U.S. Census Bureau, the unemployment rate was 9.8% for people with one or more disabilities and 3.7% for people with no disabilities. For more information, read Disability Employment in Minnesota in the current edition of Minnesota Economic Trends.

During the last legislative session, DEED secured additional funding for programs that help connect Minnesotans with disabilities to employment, including State Services for the Blind (SSB) and Vocational Rehabilitation Services (VRS). DEED projects the increased funding will help VRS provide employment-related services to approximately 20,000 Minnesotans with disabilities each year and increase the number of Minnesotans who utilize workforce training, career counseling and employment services through SSB by 50% over the next two years.

In addition, DEED established an Employer Reasonable Accommodation Fund to help small and mid-size Minnesota companies make accommodations to welcome job applicants and employees with disabilities.

VRS and SSB are DEED divisions that have long focused on connecting workers with disabilities to employment opportunities in Minnesota. This morning, VRS and SSB hosted a Disability Employment Awareness Month event featuring remarks by Commissioner Varilek. Career seekers with disabilities and employers who want help reaching out to potential employees with disabilities are encouraged to contact VRS or SSB.

The Governor's Office, DEED and other state agencies and offices and the Minnesota Council on Disability are marking the month in various ways. We're also sharing resources developed by the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Disability Employment Policy in recognition of National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). The NDEAM 2023 theme is Advancing Access and Equity. Find out more about what DEED is doing to mark this month in Minnesota on

DEED is the state's principal economic development agency, promoting business recruitment, expansion and retention, workforce development, international trade and community development. For more information about the agency and its services, visit the DEED website or follow DEED on Twitter. You can view resources to help Minnesotans prepare for and find employment now, including thousands of open positions throughout Minnesota, at

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