SOURCE: Kessler Foundation

Kessler Foundation

January 27, 2012 16:51 ET

Assistant Secretary Martinez Meets With Disability Employment Leaders at Kessler Foundation

WEST ORANGE, NJ--(Marketwire - Jan 27, 2012) - Kathleen Martinez, Assistant Secretary of Labor for the Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP), came to Kessler Foundation on Friday to learn more about employment programs supported by the Foundation and share her view on strategies for optimal employment policies for individuals with disabilities. Her visit follows Kessler Foundation's announcement of $2.7 million in grant funding to disability employment initiatives across the nation.

"Kessler Foundation is the gas that fuels the programs that provide job opportunities for people with disabilities," said Ms. Martinez. "The Foundation's creativity, innovation and team-building serve as a catalyst for creating sustainable employment options for the disability community." Martinez heard from directors of seven programs, each with a different approach to expanding job opportunities.

Elaine Katz, vice president of Grants and Special Initiatives at Kessler Foundation, said, "Having a diverse workforce sparks new ideas that benefit consumers. People with disabilities, who represent the largest minority group in the nation, must be considered an integral part of workplace diversity."

Nearly 80 percent of working-age individuals with disabilities are unemployed. Martinez emphasized the importance of government support to improve employment rates. By executive order, President Obama is requiring all federal agencies to increase the hiring of people with disabilities. Martinez pointed to ODEP's Add Us In initiative, which increases employment opportunities for job-seekers with disabilities in the small business market, especially those owned by minority groups. These businesses are creating jobs at a faster rate than the national average.

"We need to practice what we preach by demonstrating that we can be successful in hiring people with disabilities in all sectors and have an inclusive workforce wherever possible," said Ms. Martinez. "Society tends to have low expectations of people with disabilities. We need to raise our expectations and understand that their abilities outweigh their limitations."

About Kessler Foundation
Kessler Foundation is the largest public charity in the field of disability. Kessler Foundation Research Center advances care through rehabilitation research to improve quality of life for persons with spinal cord and brain injury, stroke, multiple sclerosis, and other neurological conditions. Kessler Foundation Program Center fosters new approaches to the persistently high rates of unemployment among people with disabilities across the nation. Since 2005, the Foundation has distributed more than $20 million for employment projects for individuals with disabilities. Find us at KesslerFoundation.org and on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

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