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MiDDC and MSU shine light on Disability Employment Awareness Month

October 13, 2023
Graduate teaching assistant Mudita Jagota photographed at her apartment building on Thursday, Oct. 12, 2023. Jagota said MSU does a good job accommadating disabilities, but more conversation is always needed.
Graduate teaching assistant Mudita Jagota photographed at her apartment building on Thursday, Oct. 12, 2023. Jagota said MSU does a good job accommadating disabilities, but more conversation is always needed. —
Photo by Jack Armstrong | The State News

The month of October hosts important national observances, like Breast Cancer Awareness, health literacy and HIV/AIDS awareness, all in effort to raise knowledge and funds for these particular causes. Yet, one national observance that tends to go unnoticed is Disability Employment Awareness.

Disability Employment Awareness recognizes workers with disabilities and how they contribute to the workforce. This month also brings awareness to highlight the hardships that these workers face and the hard work they present.

“Historically people with disabilities were excluded from doing a lot of things that we can do now,” graduate teaching assistant Mudita Jagota said. “This month is to make the public aware of what’s happening and why it’s important to hire people with disabilities.”

Jagota, who is also a first year PhD student majoring in counselor education and supervision, is physically disabled and restricted to a wheelchair. She says her experience working at MSU is “different.” 

“I do encounter issues, but at the same time I am fortunate to have the resources on campus like the RCPD or Office of Human Resources who come together to solve my issues and not leave me hanging," Jagota said. 

Companies and organizations like the Resource Center for Persons with Disabilities, or RCPD, along with Office of Human Resources are dedicated towards helping students and faculty around campus pursue their educational and employment goals. 

“MSU is doing a good job when it comes to creating awareness and helping people with disabilities,” Jagota said. “The RCPD has played an instrumental role in helping me succeed here on campus.”

All around Michigan, other organizations are also taking notice of this awareness month. One organization in particular, the Michigan Developmental Disabilities Council, or MiDDC, is beginning an awareness campaign to educate people about this topic.

“Throughout October, MiDDC will be engaging in a variety of activities to educate the public on disability employment issues and its commitment to an accessible and equitable work culture,” MiDCC Associate Public Information Officer Chelsea Wuth said in a press release.

The MiDDC works to remove barriers and increase opportunities that improve the daily lives of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

“This month is to celebrate the contributions that people with disabilities can make in the workforce,” Dr. Yasmina Bouraoui, MiDDC executive director, said. “We use this month to promote inclusivity and diversity in the workforce.

In hopes to promote disability diversity in the workplace, the MiDDC has created different sets of activities to complete. These activities include Employment Success Stories, Take Your Legislator to Work and Community Outreach.

Employment Success stories involve interviews with people with disabilities to show the positive impact that employment has brought. Take Your Legislator to Work invites legislators to witness the contributions of people with disabilities in an integrated workplace.

Community Outreach is a digital campaign that engages the community on disability employment.

“Overall the goals for our activities are to educate the general public about the contributions that people with disabilities can make in the workforce,” Bouraoui said. “People with disabilities are very reliable and we want to emphasize the attributes and contributions that they make to the work space.”

The MiDDC isn’t the only organization getting involved with disability employment awareness, as the MSU Career Services Network are getting involved too.

“We’re trying to educate our employers on appropriate practices when it comes to discriminatory acts," Karin Hanson, director of employer relations, said. “Students know to come to us if there's something concerning in the workplace.”

The MSU Career Services Network helps students with a variety of things, such as building resumes, attaining internships, choosing majors, creating employment opportunities and much more. 

Hanson says that the overall goal of what the Career Services Network tries to achieve is to give students what they need to be a “good job seeker” for life, no matter what background or struggles they have been through.

“When we design our career fairs, we try to make sure things are spread out so they’re handicap accessible,” DEI Coordinator Ellise Lee said. “We try to create quieter spaces so that people can take a break so that things aren’t overwhelming. Overall, we want to make things accessible for everybody.”

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The Career Services Network also collaborates with the RCPD in hopes to assist students with disabilities. Both of these organizations hope to identify research for the topic and help employers and students find a fit into the workforce.

“Everybody is individually different, so our prep, resources, and the conversations that we have with those students are very different from each other,” Lee said. "We try to prepare students to confidently step into conversations with employers in ways that they feel that they’re empowered to do so.”

Jagota believes that there should be workshops on campus to limit discriminatory practices not only in the workforce, but all over Michigan

“I think that we should also have disability training where we teach people what disabilities really are,” Jagota said. “We here at MSU should also have awareness programs and fundraisers where everyone has the equal opportunity to partake in these events.” 

Bouraoui and the MiDDC want to limit discriminatory practices and said the organization is working hard to fight to end “sub-minimum wages,” which allows employers to pay workers less than the federal minimum wage.

“Michiganders with disabilities earn six thousand dollars less on average than Michiganders without disabilities,” Bouraoui said. “We believe that people with disabilities have the right to earn real pay for real work like everybody else so that’s something that we’re highlighting this month as well.”

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