September 4, 2014; Albany Times Union

The first week of every month, the Department of Labor releases the employment statistics for the previous month, setting off an often partisan back-and-forth about the state of the U.S. economy. Often within that data are statistics surrounding the employment of a variety of segments of the American population, including race, gender, geography and other areas, including those who are have a disability. To those, the employment numbers are always dismal.

In 2013, matching figures we reported in an earlier newswire, the Department of Labor Statistics reported that only about 18 percent of persons with a disability were employed. In looking at the demographics of those reported, “persons with a disability tend to be older than persons with no disability, reflecting the increased incidence of disability with age. In 2013, 46 percent of persons with a disability were age 65 and over, compared with 14 percent of those with no disability.”

Several groups around the country and at the state level are working on meeting this challenge. One such group is New York State Industries for the Disabled (NYSID), an Albany-based nonprofit that provides job opportunities for nearly 7,000 New Yorkers with disabilities. The skills training and contract bids range from janitorial duties to window cleaning, industrial laundry work, and even taking care of plants. According to NYSID, 70 percent of the disabled in the state are without work.

One of the companies that have benefitted from hiring the disabled is the Albany County Airport Authority, which has worked with NYSID for over seven years. According to John O’Donnell, the airport chief executive officer, “We continue to use NYSID because of the quality of their work.” He also emphasized that NYSID’s prices were competitive with other contractors.

NYSID says the airport provides 31 workers with jobs. Ron Romano, NYSID’s president and CEO, discussed the relationship, stating, “The Albany County Airport Authority has been a longtime supporter of NYSID’s member agencies and corporate partners, creating numerous employment opportunities for New Yorkers with disabilities.”—John Brothers