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Marking the Annual Observance of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities

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December 3 marked the annual observance of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. This day of recognition was established December 3, 1981, as part of the celebration of the International Year for Disabled Persons. The goal of the observance is to promote better understanding of disability-related issues by focusing on the rights of people with disabilities and the achievements they can realize from being included in every aspect of social, economic, cultural and political life.

Recognizing the potential in all people is something that we at Goodwill® have promoted for more than a century. We do so by generating opportunities for people to achieve economic stability and build strong families and vibrant communities. This includes offering job training, employment placement services and other community-based programs for anyone who face employment challenges, including people with disabilities, and those who lack education or job experience.

The Census Bureau reports that more than 54 million Americans have disabilities. These Americans make up the largest and fastest-growing subgroup of the population, with an aggregate income of more than $1 trillion. But among adults with disabilities in the 18 to 64 age group, only 32 percent are employed. That compares with an 81 percent employment rate for those without disabilities, according to the National Organization on Disability.

Most employers report that it costs them little or nothing to accommodate people with disabilities in the workplace. Technology is helping all people become more productive in their jobs, including those with disabilities. People with disabilities also are hard working, enthusiastic and motivated to do a good job.

In 2009, Goodwill provided job training programs for more than 253,000 people with disabilities. We provide training and support for a broad range of assistive devices, including screen readers, dictating software, special keyboards and voice output devices. We also work with employers to support reasonable accommodations and workspace adjustments that help lead to success in the workplace.

Day in and day out, we prepare people with disabilities for a variety of jobs in fields as diverse as financial services, manufacturing, health care and computer programming.

To find out more about disability issues, please visit www.goodwill.org.