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ODEP - Office of Disability Employment Policy - Driving Change Creating Opportunity

KNX Radio Interview, Los Angeles (12/21/2010)

Assistant Secretary Kathy Martinez: I came to town today to visit with our new initiative based here in Los Angeles called "Add Us In". And the goal of "Add Us In" is to increase the capacity of small businesses. Primarily minority owned businesses, excuse me, to increase the capacity of minority owned businesses to hire people with disabilities. And we know that there's many people with disabilities in the workforce that are capable, qualified, ready to work, and we know that our biggest barrier still continues to be fear and attitude. We know, we fear less what we know best. So the goal of "Add Us In" is through example and through education and through a pipeline, which is available here through various social service entities. We can find qualified folks with disabilities to work in the LA area.

DJ: I know in having talked to business owners they are willing to hire but as you say, a lot of them don't know how, and they don't know where to start.

Assistant Secretary Kathy Martinez: That's right. So the "Add Us In" initiative will provide small business owners, primarily minority business owners with information about incentives for hiring people with disabilities, about issues they might face with other employees, about available pipelines here in the Los Angeles area like the Department of Rehabilitation, like the Centers for Independent Living. And the goal really is to increase the employment rate of folks with disabilities. Now we know that the largest group of folks with disabilities are people who are aging into their disabilities. And that includes people in the workforce, so we're not just talking about folks like myself who were born blind or born with a disability, we're talking about people who acquire disabilities, people who age into their disabilities.

You know and just to really get the discussion happening that disability is a natural part of the human condition and that hiring people with disabilities is really an economically sensible thing to do. It gets people off benefits, it increases the tax base and really that's what we're all about in the Department of Labor.