National Disability Employment Awareness Month occurs once a year in October, and Parc Center for Disabilities is shining a spotlight on local businesses in its Supported Employment Program to celebrate.

National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) celebrates the contributions of America’s workers with disabilities past and present and showcases supportive, inclusive employment policies and practices. It’s led by the U.S. Dept. of Labor’s Office of Disability and is celebrated all over the country in many different ways.

This year, Parc Center for Disabilities is reaching out to all of its Supported Employment Program partners to organize participation in #UsingInclusionToShine. The campaign encourages employers to think about the importance of workplace inclusion and the impact it has on the disability community. Building an inclusive workplace not only improves morale and workplace culture, but it also sends an important message about a company’s values. An inclusive workplace values all employees for their strengths, putting more emphasis on their skills and abilities and less on their limitations. This gives every employee, including those with disabilities, an equal opportunity to succeed, learn, be fairly compensated, and grow, allowing each of their capabilities shine. True inclusion is about embracing differences and showcasing those differences to rest of the world.

Throughout the month of October, Parc Center for Disabilities will showcase how employers are #UsingInclusionToShine by featuring four Supported Employment Program participants and the local businesses where they work. Each of these participants has had a huge impact on their organization and has had the opportunity to demonstrate their bright abilities to everyone.

Peter – Mercury Medical

Peter started by working in Parc’s Adult Day Training Program building air filters. He quickly built an advanced skillset in assembly and packaging and used those skills to secure a job at Mercury Medical, a Specialty Healthcare Organization that supplies medical devices to the market. Since Peter started his job, he has built a reputation as a hardworking, dependable, and devoted employee. He rides his bike to work four days a week and always arrives an hour early. Peter recently celebrated his one-year anniversary at Mercury Medical and celebrated this milestone with his friends and coworkers. Peter has made lifelong friendships and gained self-confidence and independence that he would not have been able to build had it not been for this opportunity to work in the community. He says he loves his job and never wants to retire.

Elijah – All Children’s Hospital

Elijah joined John Hopkins All Children’s Hospital as an intern. At the conclusion of his internship, All Children’s Hospital made the decision to hire Elijah in their Child Life Department. This employment position provided Elijah the independence he had hoped and dreamed about, and that his family spent a lot of time praying about. His confidence grew as well as his critical thinking skills. He takes tremendous pride in his work and helps train other interns. Elijah was able to further his independence by moving into his own apartment with a roommate as he advanced his career with All Children’s Hospital. Currently, Elijah is working to become a first-time homebuyer.

Preston – McDonald’s

Preston began working at McDonald’s through the Supported Employment program in 2001. For over 20 years, Preston has built confidence in himself and his ability work. When he first started at McDonald’s, he was in the back cooking on the grill. Now Preston is front and center in the lobby cleaning, assisting and greeting customers. Regular customers know him; management and staff are very protective of him. Preston has also made tremendous strides in his independence. With the help of his job coach, Preston learned how to use the bus system independently to get to-and-from his job. He loves riding the bus and finds so much joy in his role at McDonald’s.

Kayla – East Bay Animal Hospital

Kayla has always had a passion for animals, so when was offered a job at East Bay Animal Hospital in the Supported Employment program, she jumped on the chance. Four years later and she couldn’t be happier in the position that she is in. She absolutely loves her job caring for the myriad animals – dogs, cats, lizards, birds – that walk through the door. She’s formed some incredible relationships with people too. Her co-workers love having her around and say she’s a huge help when things get super busy. This position gave Kayla her dream job at a place she can also bring her emotional support dog, and it’s something she never believed she’d be able to attain because of her disabilities.