March is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. The National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities, the Association of University Centers on Disabilities and the National Disability Rights Network have created a campaign that seeks to raise awareness about the inclusion of people with developmental disabilities in all facets of community life, as well as barriers that people with disabilities sometimes face when connecting with the communities they live in.
This week, March 13-17, 2017, the focus is on employment. People with disabilities do have certain protections available to them when seeking and maintaining employment. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act or ADA prohibits discrimination in the recruitment, hiring, promotions, training, pay, social activities, and other privileges of employment. It restricts questions that can be asked about an applicant’s disability before a job offer is made, and it requires that employers make reasonable accommodation to the known physical or mental limitations of otherwise qualified individuals with disabilities, unless it results in an undue hardship.
Many of our youth with disabilities graduating from high school also have additional supports available to them when seeking to enter the workforce after graduation. The Office of Vocational Rehabilitation or OVR may provide assistance in planning the transition for students prior to graduation to enable them to be prepared to obtain a job. Additionally, OVR may provide other assistance for an individual to allow them to maintain their employment through reasonable accommodations and/or provide supported employment by acquiring assistive technology devices and services a person may need to succeed in the workplace.
When as a community we see the full potential a person with disabilities has in their ability to perform the essential functions of a given job and not look at what may be a barrier, we will be able to work side by side to ensure a positive future for our islands and all our citizens.
For more information on the services provided by the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, please contact them at 322-6537. For more information about protections for employment under the ADA please contact the Northern Marianas Protection & Advocacy Systems, Inc. at 235-7273/4 or visit us online at www.nmpasi.org.
Greg Borja is a projects specialist at the Northern Marianas Protection & Advocacy Systems Inc.