As the owner of Zenith Business Services (ZBS), the career development firm recently featured in an Oct. 31 Boomerang article, I wanted to take this opportunity to thank the newspaper for putting a spotlight on Disability Employment Awareness Month.
However, there were some things about the article that we want to respectfully share our viewpoint on. We would also like to expand upon some of the information presented:
Person-First Language (PFL) is important to use when speaking of individuals with disabilities. We always want the public-at-large to see people with disabilities for who they are – unique, vibrant, capable, talented people whose identity is not defined solely by the fact that they have a disability.
With PFL, we recognize the power of language and labels, and we put personhood at the beginning of any descriptor we apply to an individual (for example, the headline of the article might have read: Helping Individuals With Disabilities Reach Their Full Potential). We offer corporate training on Disability Etiquette and Person-First Language to help with the shift.
We challenge the assumption that people with disabilities are not already productive citizens. Our clients have families, friends, school district employees, and in many cases supervisors and coworkers who rely on them to bring light to the world. Zenith merely comes into the picture in order to create more opportunities for them, open doors that might otherwise have been closed, and provide support to them as they navigate the ins and outs of the working world just like any other employee.
“Employment First, Employment For All” is a motto we live by. ZBS is a proud member of the Wyoming Association of People Supporting Employment (WYAPSE). What the public should know about this idea is that the outdated notion of “sheltered workshop” and subminimumwage employment for people with disabilities is no longer acceptable in our society. Our goal – part of a nationwide movement — is always to place our clients in competitive, meaningful jobs where folks with disabilities earn comparable wages to those without. It is imperative that individuals with disabilities work in integrated environments alongside those without disabilities.
We want to recognize and applaud the contributions of our partners in these efforts. A big thank you to the Wyoming Department of Vocational Rehabilitation, Albany County School District and all of our teacher partners, Laramie Advisory Council on Disabilities and to our many wonderful employer partners who choose to open their workplaces to create space for individuals with disabilities.
We know that our employer partners, in turn, end up reaping the benefits of gaining great employees! We look forward to continuing our relationship with the Boomerang to highlight the awesome individuals, partners and programs in our community that we are privileged to work with. We are dedicated to increasing the visibility of folks with disabilities in Wyoming and breaking through barriers that may hold them back. Thank you for your consideration of these ideas.