Special to Iredell Free News

RALEIGH — Gov. Roy Cooper has proclaimed October as Disability Employment Awareness Month, stressing the importance of ensuring that people with disabilities have full access to employment and community involvement during the national recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“To best serve the people of North Carolina, our workforce must reflect our full diversity and understand its needs,” Cooper said. “In partnership with the private sector and across state government, we are clearing obstacles and welcoming people with disabilities to bring their skills and perspectives to our workplaces.”

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) does not designate an exclusive list of conditions that qualify as disabilities. It defines a person with a disability as a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. A few examples of such medical conditions may include autism, blindness, and “long COVID” as well as certain pregnancy-induced health conditions.

North Carolina’s observance of Disability Employment Awareness Month reflects the ongoing commitment to Executive Order No. 92: Employment First for North Carolinians with Disabilities. The N.C. Office of State Human Resources works closely with the NC Department of Health and Human Services’ Vocational Rehabilitation Division to support individuals with disabilities who need support to apply and interview for state government career opportunities, as well as remain successful as state employees as their jobs and assistive technology evolve over time.

“Working together, we can ensure that individuals with disabilities have equal opportunity to apply for state positions and provide them the tools to succeed in their roles – and that agency hiring managers have the guidelines and training necessary to support these individuals in an inclusive workplace,” said State Human Resources Director Barbara Gibson.

Cooper and Gibson encourage state agency employees to update their status in the Voluntary Self-Identification of Disability (VSID) tool in the Employee Self Service portal of the Integrated HR/Payroll System to help the state gauge its progress. It takes just a minute to click one box to confidentially confirm that you have a disability, do not have a disability, or don’t wish to answer.

Since VSID launched in June 2020, in advance of the ADA’s 30th anniversary, more than 3,400 employees have completed the voluntary update with more than 1,200 identifying as having a disability.

“It is vital that employees are made aware of this tool and feel comfortable reporting in the confidential manner that VSID provides,” Gibson said. “This helps ensure that the State of North Carolina creates an inclusive work environment that values employees with disabilities.”

Read the proclamation HERE.

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