How Alabama will Advance and Utilize Its Disabled Workforce

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month and Governor Kay Ivey has scheduled the Governor’s Inaugural Disability Job Fair on Oct. 30 from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. at the Bill Harris Arena in Birmingham.

“The inaugural Governor’s Disability Job Fair is just the start of what I hope will continue bridging the gap between employers and individuals with disabilities,” Governor Ivey said. “When our state agencies work together, share resources and partner with the private sector to help connect businesses looking to hire with individuals actively seeking employment, Alabamians can rest assured we are doing our best to improve their quality of life.”

To prepare for the job fair, employers are urged to attend a job fair training session on Monday, Oct. 23, from 9 a.m. until noon in Homewood. The registration deadline for the employer workshop presented by the Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services is Wednesday, Oct. 18.

Register for the job fair training can be made by emailing Gloria Greer.

The Oct. 23 employer workshop location is the Vocational Rehabilitation Service Office, 236 Goodwin Crest Dr., Homewood. The Governor’s Inaugural Disability Job Fair scheduled Oct. 30 will be at the Bill Harris Arena, 2337 Bessemer Rd., Birmingham.

The job fair is a joint partnership between United Ability, the Alabama Department of Labor, Department of Mental Health, Department of Rehabilitation Services, and the Governor’s Office on Disability.

Employer workshop topics include disability etiquette, interacting with applicants with disabilities, overcoming perceived barriers, tapping into the disability talent pool, and diversity and “good faith effort.”

“The employer workshop is intended to provide training for businesses that will be attending the Disability Job Fair and even for those businesses that may not be able to attend the job fair but desire the training,” said Leslie Dawson, state administrator of the Business Relations Program, Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services.

Training topics will cover areas such as what questions a recruiter can ask at a disability targeted job fair; how to discuss a person’s ability to perform essential functions of a job in relation to their disability and accommodation needs; what is the proper etiquette when interacting with individuals with disabilities; what does Alabama’s talent pool of individuals with disabilities look like; and what resources are available to employers in Alabama when it comes to hiring and retaining individuals with disabilities and incorporating disability into their company’s culture.

“Training is geared toward helping employers at the job fair become more familiar and more comfortable with job candidates with disabilities and help to keep the focus on their ability versus disability,” Dawson said. “The other part of the training is to give employers an idea about what the talent pool is in the state of Alabama,”

In fiscal year 2017, the Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services, Vocational Rehabilitation Service division, provided services to 24,709 Alabamians with disabilities, assisting 4,633 of those in becoming successfully employed.

Also in FY17, READI-Net (Resources for Employment and Disability Information Network), the department’s business relations program, provided 5,641 no-cost services to 1,065 employers in Alabama.

Alabama Department of Labor Secretary Fitzgerald Washington urged participation.

“We brought dozens of employers together last year for a Disability Employment Summit, and today’s announcement of the Governor’s Disability Job Fair is a direct result of that effort,” Washington said. “Employers are ready and willing to offer opportunities to Alabamians living with a disability, and there are thousands of Alabamians ready and willing to do the work. We’re here to help bring them together.”

“The unemployment rate of people with disabilities continues to remain unacceptably high,” Graham Sisson, executive director of the Governor’s Office on Disability, said. “This event will continue the state’s combined efforts to increase employment opportunities for those with significant disabilities.”