Special Olympics, the venerable athletics organization providing training and competitions for people with intellectual disabilities, has launched the Delivering Jobs campaign this National Disability Employment Awareness Month to help provide the skills and resources for them to seek employment.
"We have an ambitious target of over a million jobs to be delivered for people with intellectual disability and autism over the next five years," Special Olympics CEO Mary Davis told Cheddar. "We believe we can do that."
Davis noted that there are 6.5 million people with an intellectual disability living in the U.S. and that more than 80 percent of that population is unemployed. Partnering with organizations Autism Speaks and Best Buddies, the campaign is meant to improve the inclusion of the disability community in the workplace.
"The path to dignity is through employment, so it's really, really important that our athletes and the people with an intellectual disability have the opportunity," Davis said. "So it's our job to convince employers that it's good business."
The CEO noted that diversity and inclusion endeavors in most businesses tend to overlook disability as part of their programs. However, Davis says employing Special Olympics athletes translates to a happier work environment by employing talent already trained with the skills and leadership qualities that any person learns from participating in organized sports.
"It's good for business, it's good for employers, it's great for employees, so smart people are employing people with intellectual disabilities," said Davis.
National Disability Employment Awareness Month dates back more than 70 years in the U.S., according to the Department of Labor. The month was set aside for celebrating, and educating about, the contributions of workers with disabilities.
The Special Olympics was founded by Eunice Kennedy Shriver in 1968 and is a global organization advocating for people with disabilities through sports and athletics.