Today’s SPMB Spotlight shines on Best Buddies International, a nonprofit organization dedicated to establishing a global volunteer movement that creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment, leadership development, and inclusive living for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).
SPMB has been fortunate to build a strong, enduring, and mutually-beneficial friendship with the Best Buddies community over the years, and this October we’re pleased to celebrate and champion National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). In this Q&A with Chanel Brisbane, Best Buddies’ Director of Jobs in California, we discuss how companies can educate themselves and take the steps necessary to not only support but implement inclusive hiring practices.
Since October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, could you share a bit about how Best Buddies spreads awareness — and importantly, what other organizations can do to get involved?
For Best Buddies Jobs, every month is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). In October, we emphasize our efforts by working with our community partners to spread awareness of the contributions people with disabilities make to the workplace and the benefits of inclusive hiring. Best Buddies will be spreading awareness all month by sharing the successes of our participants and engaging volunteers. To get more involved, please contact your local Best Buddies office — www.bestbuddies.org.
What is the history behind National Disability Employment Awareness Month? How did it get started?
According to the Department of Labor, “the history of National Disability Employment Awareness Month traces back to 1945 when Congress enacted a law declaring the first week in October each year ‘National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week’. In 1962, the word ‘physically’ was removed to acknowledge the employment needs and contributions of individuals with all types of disabilities. In 1988, Congress expanded the week to a month and changed the name to National Disability Employment Awareness Month”. (https://www.dol.gov/agencies/odep/initiatives/ndeam).
Can you share some recent success stories from Best Buddies and efforts to promote NDEAM?
Best Buddies Jobs serves over 2,351 individuals globally and 1,690 of these individuals are working in competitive, integrated jobs. Our staff has worked tirelessly to combat the many challenges COVID-19 has presented, adapt to the evolving workplace, and provide innovative solutions to address the over 80% unemployment gap for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).
In 2021, our team has identified employment opportunities for over 260 individuals across the US. Here are some of our successes:
- In August 2021, Patrick successfully obtained a job with the Oakland A’s as a Guest Services Usher. Prior to working with Best Buddies, Patrick had been in and out of the workforce for over 20 years. He came to our organization interested in growing his skills and earning an income so he could continue to live independently. Patrick’s dream job was to work for the A’s—his favorite team. Our team worked consistently to build a relationship with the Oakland A’s. This relationship building resulted in our participant landing his dream job that we’re pleased to share he is excelling at!
- Rick volunteered at UCLA health for 4 years while balancing a part-time position elsewhere in order to cover his finances. After years of self-advocating, Rick transitioned his volunteer position into paid employment — and now he gets paid to do what he would have done for free! Furthermore, Rick was recently selected to be the UCLA Pathology Lab’s August Employee of the month! How incredible to have his colleagues recognize his talent and contribution to the team and celebrate him in this special way.
How can employers educate themselves and take the steps necessary to implement inclusive hiring practices?
Best Buddies Jobs program works with inclusive employers to identify competitive integrated employment opportunities for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. We ensure this is a successful hire by providing support to both the individual and the employer. By working with organizations like Best Buddies International, your company will have full support in sourcing candidates, interviewing, onboarding, training, and long-term success of the individual. We do so by providing 1-1 support with our experienced staff.
To get started, our Best Buddies Jobs team would welcome the opportunity to host a lunch & learn or diversity and inclusion training with your company.
How does the theme for NDEAM 2021, “America’s Recovery: Powered by Inclusion” help educate organizations in the recovery from COVID-19?
Historically, people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) have faced discrimination and barriers when obtaining employment. Inclusion in the workplace means that everyone has equal access and opportunity. Inclusion doesn’t stop at hiring someone with a disability. It is the way you ensure everyone on your team is integrated into the company culture, that everyone has space to self-identify, and that everyone has the opportunity to contribute and have their voice heard. As companies educate themselves, we encourage them to self-reflect on their hiring practices and workplace culture. We all have space to improve so how can you make your workplace more inclusive for people with disabilities?
How can employers make a difference in the recovery from COVID-19 for people of all abilities?
Hire and educate your staff.
Over 80% of people with IDD are unemployed. Every company has the ability to change this statistic by hiring someone with a disability. We recommend you begin by educating your team on the benefits of hiring people with disabilities and best practices for inclusive hiring.
When you are ready to hire, Best Buddies Jobs has the candidate for you. Our Jobs programs team is working with over 380 qualified candidates who are seeking employment in over 31 markets across the US. We will work with your company to identify the right candidate who can utilize their special abilities at your company. To learn more, please visit www.bestbuddies.org/jobs.
If organizations are interested in learning more or taking action to support Best Buddies, what can they do and who can they contact?
Best Buddies Jobs in California would love to celebrate NDEAM with you! Here are four ways your company can get involved:
- Diversity and Inclusion Training: Invite Best Buddies staff to share information on tips and etiquette for inclusive hiring.
- Ambassador Speech: Ask a Jobs participant to speak about inclusion in your workplace.
- Workplace Readiness Workshop: Promote workplace readiness by teaching jobs skills to participants seeking employment.
- Hire: Join Best Buddies’ network of inclusive employers by hiring one of their qualified candidates.
To get more involved, you can contact Best Buddies in California’s Director of Jobs, Chanel Brisbane (firstname.lastname@example.org).