Its Disability Awareness Month – ‘Inclusion Counts’

The Warren County Board of Chosen Freeholders proclaimed October 2017 as Disability Employment Awareness Month to raise awareness and celebrate the many contributions that people with disabilities add to our workplaces and communities.

“We’ve now come to the age where we don’t have such archaic stigmas attached to folks with disabilities, and it’s a great thing,” said Freeholder Director Richard D. Gardner. “It’s a feeling of fulfillment for somebody who can contribute to society no matter what their disability.”

The U.S. Department of Labor annually designates October as Disability Employment Awareness Month to celebrate and recognize the capabilities and contributions of workers with disabilities. This year’s theme – “Inclusion Drives Innovation” – emphasizes how employees from different backgrounds, perspectives, abilities and disabilities contribute to workforce diversity and innovation to build an inclusive community and strong economy.

“When I see everybody put to work, and everybody has an opportunity to produce something, it just gives them such a sense of well-being,” said Freeholder Deputy Director Edward Smith. “It’s just a good thing all the way around,” he added.

The Warren County Department of Human Services and its Advisory Council on Disabilities, along with Abilities of Northwest Jersey and DAWN Center for Independent Living, strive to create awareness and opportunities that provide residents with disabilities – and their caregivers – options and support to promote independent living and equal access for all citizens.

“It’s not about a person’s disability, it’s about their abilities, and their ability to contribute to society and work and make a difference,” said Freeholder Jason J. Sarnoski. “That’s what we’re celebrating here – their abilities,” he said.

The proclamation was accepted by Cynthia Wildermuth, CEO of Abilities of Northwest Jersey, Inc.; and Dawn Duffy, Program Director at DAWN Center for Independent Living. Wildermuth said Abilities has been providing employment opportunities to individuals in the northwest region of the state since 1974. Since the inception of its community supported employment division about 20 years ago, they have placed 667 individuals with different abilities into employment.

“We are truly grateful for the business community throughout Warren County for opening its doors; to individuals in recognizing their strengths and talents and abilities; and we’re certainly appreciative of the support of the county,” said Wildermuth.

Duffy said DAWN CIL has a long-standing, very strong partnership with Warren County, providing resources to enable persons with disabilities to remain independent, and to gain pre-employment, employment readiness, employment management skills, as well as transition for youth out of high school.

Sarnoski said, “I’ve seen in Warren County that there’s no limit to what people can do if they’re given an opportunity. This is great recognition.”

Photo: Cynthia Wildermuth, CEO of Abilities of Northwest Jersey, Inc., and Dawn Duffy, Program Director at DAWN Center for Independent Living, receive a proclamation declaring October as Disability Employment Awareness Month in Warren County from Freeholder Jason J. Sarnoski, Freeholder Director Richard D. Gardner, and Freeholder Edward J. Smith. 

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