Former Governor Tom Ridge Speaks On Disability Employment

Posted on October 7th, 2019 at 6:30 PM
Former Governor Tom Ridge Speaks On Disability Employment

Former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge, now chairman of the National Organization on Disability (NOD) urged a sold-out crowd to “look closer” at hiring persons with disabilities during a luncheon sponsored by the Barber National Institute on Monday, Oct. 7.

Ridge served as keynote speaker at the event aimed at celebrating Disability Employment Awareness Month, which occurs every October and is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor. As part of the program, awards were also presented to Grapevine Laundry & Linens as the 2019 Employer of the Year, and to Antonio Wentling as the Self Advocate Employee of the Year.

Ridge, an Erie native who served two terms as Pennsylvania’s Governor, is an outspoken advocate for increased hiring of individuals with disabilities in all sectors of the workforce.

He described growing up around persons with disabilities and saying that acceptance of disabilities should be “part of who we are as a country.”

Ridge said that while the passage of the ADA in 1990 has led to many important changes, “the numbers on workforce participation have not changed appreciably since world war II. … Today we find ourselves at near full employment, and employers are scrambling to find new sources of talent. But for a few exceptions, most employers are not hiring any more persons with disabilities than they did when the ADA was signed into law.”

Looking around the capacity audience that included many area employers and Barber National Institute staff, Ridge added, “Thank you, Erie region—you’re certainly doing your part.”

Ridge called for action from “Every business that hasn’t figured out to benefit from the problem-solving abilities, from the tenacity of men and women who spend most of their lives navigating a world that wasn’t built for them.”

The hope for the future, according to Ridge, is the recognition that issues of disabilities cut across all partisan lines and can be solved by disabilities groups coming together. As part of his efforts with NOD, Ridge described a new program with national employers called Look Closer “to do precisely what the Barber National Institute is doing with employers in this region.”

In closing, he told employers looking for “competitive, resourceful, on-time, dedicated employees… Look closer.”


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