Oct. is National Disability Employment Awareness Month – good for everyone!


Tom in his office at The Arc Greater Twin Cities.


Pat loves working with book donations at Arc’s Value Village Richfield.

“I really like the people here (at work),” Tom Dixon says.  “I love my huge cubicle that I can decorate how I want. It is like having my own apartment in there!”

Tom is a part-time data entry associate at The Arc Greater Twin Cities, with almost four years on a job that originally was going to be temporary.  He enters volunteer and personal shopper client data for Arc’s Value Village and prepares the sort-a-thon volunteer sign-in sheets.  Tom, who has cerebral palsy and epilepsy, doesn’t mind a bit when he’s given more and more responsibility.  He says, “It makes me believe people trust me to do a good job, for which I am very flattered and proud.”

“I’m happiest when I’m at work,” Pat Cowell says.  Pat is a merchandise assistant at Arc’s Value Village Richfield and has worked there for 5 years.  “I like putting away books,” he says.  “I also put out clothes, help with new arrivals, I do whatever they say.”

Pat also works part-time.  Shoppers and staff know when he’s there, because his laugh carries across the store.“Everyone loves him and his laugh.  Customers, volunteers and staff comment on how much they like him,” says Therese Munoz, the store manager.  Pat is one of nine employees at the Richfield store with a disability.

Donovan works at Arc’s Value Village Brooklyn Center.

At Value Village Brooklyn Center, Donovan Evans, who has Autism, was recently promoted from merchandise assistant to general labor.  The part-time job works well for him, as he is also taking classes at Hennepin Technical Institute.  He loves the fast pace and physical nature of the work and barely paused long enough for a photo as he was moving boxes of Halloween costumes around recently.  “He’s doing great,” says Beth McCulloch, store manager.

Eight percent of the paid workforce at The Arc Greater Twin Cities and Arc’s Value Village Thrift Stores & Donation Centers have a disability.  October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month. The theme this year is “because we are all EQUAL to the task.”   It reflects the reality that many people with disabilities can be successful in the workplace and want to work.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, only 20.5% of people with disabilities are employed.  The majority — 67% — of those who are unemployed, say they would prefer to be working.  Research dating back to 1948 consistently shows that people with disabilities are great employees. They have average or better attendance, lower turnover and average or better job performance and safety records.

Promoting positive employment outcomes for people with disabilities is the purpose of celebrating Disability Employment Month.  The campaign emphasize that, at work, it is what people can do that matters.

“The Arc feels strongly that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities can be employed and can earn competitive wages,” says CEO Kim Keprios.  ”Good training is critical, as it is for everyone.   Ancillary services like assistive technology and access to transportation may be needed.   But employers who make the effort will benefit by having loyal, hard-working employees. They will also benefit from positive public opinion.”

A 2005 survey of Consumer Attitudes toward Companies that Hire People with Disabilities showed that 92% of Americans view companies that hire people with disabilities more favorably than those who do not.  And, 87% of the public would prefer to give their business to companies that hire people with disabilities.

“During October, and all throughout the year, we salute and thank employers who hire people with disabilities,” Keprios said.  “And, we honor our employees at The Arc Greater Twin Cities and Arc’s Value Village who have disabilities.”

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