Barber National Institute Joins Broad Effort to Observe National Employment Awareness Month

Posted on October 11th, 2023 at 6:21 PM
Barber National Institute Joins Broad Effort to Observe National Employment Awareness Month

(Erie, PA) October 11, 2023 Barber National Institute joins the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy in recognizing National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), an annual awareness campaign that takes place each October. The purpose of National Disability Employment Awareness Month is to educate about disability employment issues and celebrate the many and varied contributions of America's workers with disabilities. This year's theme is "Advancing Access and Equity."

The history of NDEAM traces back to 1945, when it started as a week and focused only on people with physical disabilities. Later, it expanded to a full month, and its name and scope evolved to acknowledge the importance of increasing the workforce inclusion of people with all natures of disabilities.

“Our communities and economy are strengthened by the inclusion of all people, including people with disabilities,” said Barber National Institute Senior Vice President Robert Barber. “Their contributions have historically been vital to our nation’s success and are more important today than ever. We must build an accessible, equitable economy that fully includes the talent and drive of those with disabilities.”

Through the Barber National Institute, adults with intellectual disabilities and autism develop skills needed for employment through programs such as Small Group Employment and can be matched with Competitive Integrated Employment (CIE) and businesses throughout Pennsylvania through Supported Employment.

Small Group Employment offers a variety of work experiences and specialized training in landscaping, food service, janitorial work, and machine operation. These and other opportunities give participants the experience needed to gain employment. The goal of the program is to prepare individuals for future employment success. 

Supported Employment matches individuals with highly trained and professional employment specialists or "job coaches." These highly trained professionals work side-by-side with the adult, remaining at the worksite until the new employee performs all job duties to the employer’s satisfaction. They will return to the site whenever needed to assist the adult in learning new responsibilities. The goal for each supported employee is that he or she will successfully and independently maintain employment in the community.

Since the program began in 1986, more than 600 adults have been placed in jobs at approximately 400 businesses in Erie County. Once hired, many employees remain on the job for three years or more.

Today, 46 Erie County businesses employ 66 individuals, 37 in job development services and 18 in community-based employment assessment.

At Red Letter Hospitality in Erie, setting the table for success starts with a culture of “enlightened hospitality.” They believe in a cycle of caring that begins with how they value and treat one another, guests, and the community. The result is a connection, a bond.

Red Letter Hospitality has partnered with the Barber National Institute for many years, beginning with its adult day programs in the early 1990s and providing individuals with paid work opportunities. The partnership then evolved to supported employment through vocational skill development and career exploration.

In the last 18 months, Barber National Institute job coaches have placed two individuals at Red Letter’s Skunk & Goat Tavern in North East, PA. Joey Lawerence has been employed for over a year as a dishwasher and now, successfully maintains his employment independently of the Barber National Institute. Shawn Bowman, also a dishwasher, works alongside his Barber National Institute job coach and has diversified his skills to include catering services.

Anne DiPillo, Red Letter Hospitality director of marketing, says the job coach adds value to the equation. “This has been a great experience for Red Letter. The Barber job coach starts as a liaison between us and the employee, easing training and adjusting to different approaches to learning and communication,” said Anne. “This program has expanded our pool of reliable and enthusiastic employees. Joey and Shawn are held to the same professional standards as the rest of the team. They want to be part of the Red Letter family.”

“Barber National Institute is proud to be a part of this year's National Disability Employment Awareness Month," said Barber. "We thank employers throughout Pennsylvania who recognize the contributions and talents of all individuals."

Employers and employees in all industries can learn more about how to participate in National Disability Employment Awareness Month and ways they can promote its messages—during October and throughout the year—by visiting

For questions or more information on how Barber National Institute Employment Specialists can assist adults with disabilities and behavioral health challenges in finding employment & meet the needs of employers, contact the Supported Employment office at  (814) 455-5961.


 About the Barber National Institute

The Barber National Institute provides children and adults with autism, intellectual disabilities, and behavioral health challenges and their families the education, support, and resources needed to be self-reliant, independent, and valued members of their community. In addition, we provide the professionals who serve them with world-class education and training. Its Elizabeth Lee Black School is a nationally recognized school of excellence that serves a very diverse group of learners.

The Barber National Institute serves more than 6,000 individuals statewide with offices in Erie County, Pittsburgh, Somerset, Bedford and Philadelphia, PA. The Barber National Institute employs over 3,000 people.