Contact: Lori Becker
December 6, 2013
U.S. Assistant Secretary of Labor Speaks to Local Business, Community Leaders about Jobs for Disabled
St. Louis, MO –United States Assistant Secretary of Labor Kathleen Martinez mad a special visit to St. Louis yesterday, and spoke to over one hundred area business and community leaders about the importance of competitive jobs for the disabled. Martinez leads the national Office on Disability Employment Policy in Washington D.C. Blind since birth, she is an internationally recognized disability rights leader.
Martinez spoke on a wide range of topics including the newest issue of non-visible disability. “Often times a person has a disability that is not obvious or visible. They do not tell their employer,” said Martinez. “But when you keep it a secret it is like living in the shadows. It is so much easier to bring your whole self to work.”
Martinez visit to St. Louis comes on the heels of a federal ruling requiring government contractors to affirmatively hire people with disabilities to comprise 7% of their workforce. Prior to her public presentation, Martinez met privately with some local human resource executives.
“Ms. Martinez’ visit helps local employers understand this new ruling, how it applies to them, and how the full inclusion of qualified workers with disabilities strengthens their entire workforce,” says Colleen Starkloff, Co-director of the Starkloff Disability Institute, who sponsored the event.
“Workers with disabilities are a vast untapped pool of talent that hiring managers are just now discovering,” said David Newburger, Co-director of the Starkloff Disability Institute and Commissioner on the Disabled for the City of St. Louis. “The companies present today, especially our host Centene, are ahead of the curve in disability employment.”
The event took place at the Centene Corporation auditorium in Clayton. Centene has committed to the full inclusion of people with disabilities in their workforce and hired several people who are blind, visually impaired or deaf or hard of hearing.
The Next Big Step, the flagship program of the Starkloff Disability Institute is an employment initiative that breaks down barriers to employment, and trains people with disabilities to become highly competitive job seekers through an intensive 15-week training program.
Martinez comes to St. Louis as a guest presenter in the Max Starkloff Speaker Series, presented by the Starkloff Disability Institute. The Starkloff Disability Institute, a 501 c(3) organization, is dedicated to empowering people with disabilities to participate fully and equally in all aspects of society, particularly employment.