This year’s National Disability Employment Awareness Month celebrations were full of diversity, inclusivity and, for me personally, humility. The CNMI Disability Network Partners, an organization that NMPASI is a proud member of, hosted the 2021 NDEAM Employer Recognition Ceremony on Oct. 1, 2021 at the Royal Taga Hall, Saipan World Resort. During the ceremony, the CNMI Office of Vocational Rehabilitation recognized all the employers who have hired and/or trained individuals with disabilities in the past fiscal year. Additionally, NMPASI was able to provide education and training for the “Employer and Self-Advocates Presentations” on Rota, where various employers, advocates, family members, and interested community members were present. This highlighted all the available resources that the DNPs can provide as support for individuals with disabilities.
It is no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic greatly affected on our already-suffering economy, with many businesses and agencies, small and large, cutting back on costs, furloughing employees, and unfortunately, even shutting down. Thankfully, through much faith and resilience from our community, we have been in the process of recovery. This year’s NDEAM theme is “America’s Recovery: Powered by Inclusion.” The CNMI’s recovery is likewise powered by inclusion. Inclusion is not just culturally rooted, but rather diversified by all walks of life in this community of ours. This is our indigenous people, our international folks, our young, our old and, yes, our people with disabilities.
One month of the year is not enough to recognize our employers for believing that people with disabilities are not looked at for what they can’t do but for what they can do. So with that, we say thank you, employers, for focusing on one’s abilities and strengths as qualified employees. The awardees of this year were from both the private and public sectors of our community are: Pepoy’s Café & Restaurant, Herman’s Modern Bakery, No Ka Oi Termites, Taro Sue Corp., Department of Lands and Natural Resources – Division of Agriculture, Garapan Elementary School, Public School System – Office of the Commissioner of Education, Triple J Five Star Whole Foods, Sun Palace Hotel, Office of the Governor, Center for Living Independently in the CNMI, Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, Department of Finance – Revenue & Taxation, Delta Management, Department of Community & Cultural Affairs – Historic Preservation Office. Garapan Public Market, Kinpachi Restaurant, Dong A. Corp., Island Café & Restaurant, Commonwealth Healthcare Corp., and the Maternal Child Health Bureau. Thank you for opening your doors, breaking down barriers, and for being role-model businesses for everyone else to follow.
It is a privilege being able to witness and honor all who have continuously shown their allegiance of being inclusive in their workplace by hiring and training individuals with disabilities. The experience that I’ve been gaining in my short yet continuous tenure of working in this ever-evolving field is one of its own kind. Grateful is not enough to describe this, but perhaps humbled is close. Witnessing these real-life advocates, employers, employees and all who have a stake in being the reason for inclusivity in the workplace is far beyond anything the movies and TV shows can teach you. We have gone a long way from where we’ve began as a community and I can’t help but hope for more in the coming years!
For more information about protections for people with disabilities in the workplace, please contact NMPASI at 235-7273/4 or visit us online at www.nmpasi.org.
Tiava To’omata is a program aide at the Northern Marianas Protection and Advocacy Systems Inc.