Five Things People with Disabilities Should Know About Voting

Vote 2020

Know Your Voting Rights

New Jersey’s primary elections are right around the corner, taking place on July 7th. At Easterseals New Jersey, we want voting to be as easy and accessible an experience as possible. That’s why we have put together a list of five things voters with disabilities need to know about their voting rights, how they can vote, and where to turn should they have any questions.

  1. The upcoming primary will be a vote-by-mail election. However, if you are unable to vote by mail, in-person voting will be available in at least one polling place per municipality. Please contact your local County Clerk for more information on available locations and accommodations.
  2. Voting is your right as a citizen and no one should tell you otherwise. If you are experiencing challenges voting, please call 1-866-OUR-VOTE (1-866-687-8683). You can also request assistance in voting by filling out our 2020 Voting Pledge!
  3. Polling places MUST be accessible to disabled voters. Do not be afraid to speak up if you feel your rights are being violated. To learn more about voting rights in New Jersey, please check out the State Division of Elections Voter Rights and Accessibility webpage here.
  4. You are allowed to, but not required to have someone help you vote. For in-person voting, this can be a poll-worker or someone you bring with you. Any person may assist you in completing a vote-by-mail ballot.
  5. You have the right to vote privately and independently. If someone is violating your right to vote privately and independently, please call 1-866-OUR-VOTE (1-866-687-8683) to report your situation and receive assistance.
Vote 2020 disability / disabled

This only a shortlist of important items, so please let us know if you have any additional questions about how to ensure you can vote in 2020. You can also check out our Voting Information Center website for more detailed information and helpful voting tools.

Happy voting!

YOU Count, so Be Counted: 2020 Census

US Census 2020

Why Should I Fill Out the Census?

Because it’s important to people with disabilities and their families!

Hands,raised,raised hands,arms,up - free image from needpix.com

Every 10 years, the United States counts everyone who lives in the country, regardless of age, nationality or ability. It is important that everyone – especially individuals and families living with a disability – respond to the 2020 Census. Information collected in the Census will inform the allocation of more than $675 billion in federal funds for states and communities each year for the next decade. That includes money for services that ensure people with disabilities have access to the supports they need to thrive!

Read moreYOU Count, so Be Counted: 2020 Census

Special Needs Considerations for Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Covid-19 Update Coronavirus

Pandemic Protection for Our Most Vulnerable

Within a few short weeks, the Coronavirus (Covid-19) went from being a dangerous disease to being classified as a global pandemic. Countries have begun to take extreme measures to control the outbreak, but we must also take responsibility for the protection of ourselves and our loved ones. This virus can be lethal to anyone with a compromised immune system, heart disease, or respiratory complications, which means we must take extra precautions for people with disabilities, special needs, and seniors. We should also be considerate of the unique challenges we will face as a result of the special measures being put in place by our local, state, and federal governments. You can find many online resources detailing how to generally protect yourself and others, but this article will focus on those unique considerations for the individuals and families we serve.

Read moreSpecial Needs Considerations for Coronavirus (Covid-19)

It’s Time for a Direct Service Professional Wage Increase in NJ

A call to support DSP wage increases

Senator Stephen Sweeney (primary sponsor) and Senator Troy Singleton have put forward a bill in the New Jersey legislature that would increase direct support professional (DSP) wages in the state.

As the bill’s “statement” makes clear, DSP wages are becoming unsustainable at their current levels as the cost of living rises. See below:

 “At an average starting salary of $12 per hour, DSP wages are not competitive, with an increasing number of retailers paying $15 to $18 per hour and New Jersey’s minimum wage on a path to $15 per hour for entry-level jobs that are far less demanding.  To compound the issue, there is a growing DSP shortage that is threatening the safety and health of individuals with I/DD living in community settings.”

Read moreIt’s Time for a Direct Service Professional Wage Increase in NJ

Megan Tells Us What Camp Means to Her

Photo of Mary and TEXT: What does camp mean to you?

Megan came to Camp Merry Heart as a camper and had a fantastic time. So much so, that she couldn’t stay away. She came back as a volunteer because she wanted to help make sure other campers were able to experience camp the way she did. We ask her what makes her feel so strongly about the camp experience.

Read moreMegan Tells Us What Camp Means to Her

The Business Side of Disability – Part 3

hiring people with disabilities

Making YOUR Workplace Accessible

Welcome to PART 3 of our Business Side of Disability blog series. If you’ve missed PART 1 and PART 2, please give them a read, but it’s not necessary to understand this article. In those blogs, we discussed recruitment strategies and the benefits employees with disabilities bring to an organization. Now, we will be discussing how you can make your workplace more accessible by exploring technology and workplace accommodations.

Read moreThe Business Side of Disability – Part 3

The Business Side of Disability – PART 2

As part of our continued celebration of October being National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), this is PART 2 of our blog series showcasing the untapped workforce of job seekers with disabilities. In PART 1, we explored the overall value workers with disabilities can bring to your organization, but here we will be exploring how you can attract those employees to apply for open positions at your company.

Read moreThe Business Side of Disability – PART 2

The Business Side of Disability – PART I

The Business Side of Disability

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month and in the spirit of the occasion, we decided to do something a little different with our blog…

Many times, we have written about employment and disability from the perspective of the job seeker. For this article we will be taking a different approach. Easterseals job coaches often go above and beyond providing individual job supports to our program participants. They visit businesses to speak with owners/managers to discuss how hiring an employee with a disability can help meet their staffing needs. Often hiring managers are unaware of the benefits of hiring people with disabilities, let alone that so many people are actively seeking work. That’s why we’re going to discuss why looking to the untapped workforce of people with disabilities to fill your next open position, makes good business sense.

Workers With Disabilities by the Numbers

Purely decorative graph

Unemployment has dropped to record levels, which has made it difficult for employers to find the right people for the open positions they desperately hope to fill. A perfect opportunity to look toward the 7.7% of New Jersey working-age (21-64) persons who identify as has having a disability. That’s approximately 700,000 people. 10.7% of those individuals were unemployed and actively seeking work. That’s 70,000+ individuals in New Jersey only who are looking to work for New Jersey businesses. Still, there is hesitancy for hiring managers to employee people with disabilities, evidenced by the 35.8% point employment gap between people with disabilities and those without.

There may be many reasons for this disparity, but the number one issue our job coaches have encountered is the stigma that still surrounds workers with disabilities. This stigma often stems from some commonly held misconceptions on the topic. So let’s address take a look at these issues here and now and learn more about why you should start hiring people with disabilities.

The More You Know

  1. Employees with disabilities are reliable, dedicated, and consistently are recorded as having impressive job performance, attendance records, and retention rates.
  2. It’s actually cost-effective to hire people with disabilities because benefits and insurance are sometimes covered by government programs, reducing your company’s overhead. You can also receive a tax credits for working with people with disabilities, helping to off-set any accommodation costs for providing accommodations for an employee.
  3. Employees with disabilities often qualify for training and support programs like those Easterseals provides. This means often the individual you are hiring is either already trained in their job task, or the training you would normally pay for, instead is provided by Easterseals rather than coming out of your budget.
  4. There is plenty of accessible technology available today which allows integration into the workplace possible. Everything from screen readers to accessible phone applications allow for many employees with disabilities to accomplish job tasks you may not have initially thought was possible for them.

These points may have dispelled some of the reservations you may have about hiring a person with a disability, but if you still have questions, let us know! Our workforce development team is always open to meeting with business leaders to discuss how we can work together to help solve your staffing issues.

Also, keep an eye out for our upcoming National Disability Employment Awareness Month highlights, coming this October. Don’t forget to check out Part 2 and Part 3 of this post for more information!

The Americans with Disabilities Act: 30 Years of Progress (UPDATED 2020)

Americans With Disabilities Act ADA

Access is a RIGHT

If you were a person with a disability living in the U.S. before the 1990’s, you know our society was NOT built with you in mind. This was best reflected in very architecture of our streets and buildings, which were structured in such a way that, unless you were walking, were impossible to navigate. Ramp access was a luxury, braille was barely used, closed captioning was not a requirement, and something as simple as using a public restroom was often a daunting (and dangerous) task. Today, it’s evident that the times have changed for the better. Though things are far from perfect, it’s undeniable that our country is more accessible than it ever was in the past. Many of these changes can be directly attributed to the establishment of a key law known as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Read moreThe Americans with Disabilities Act: 30 Years of Progress (UPDATED 2020)

Empowering People With Disabilities Through Empathy

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately one in four Americans currently live with a disability. This means it is likely that you, someone you know, or someone you will meet has a disability or will develop one later in life. Yet the public is still either uninformed or misinformed about the modern-day obstacles facing persons with disabilities.

With the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act and other key pieces of legislation, many barriers to access have been removed from public life. However, we must now move to address the social stigma surrounding this community. This problem cannot be solved by simply building a ramp or installing braille. We must instead work together to change hearts and minds in order to build a more inclusive society for all.

This stigma has had real-world consequences for this population. According to a 2016 survey by Total Jobs, one in four persons who are deaf reported they left their job due to discrimination at their places of employment. In addition, the U.S. Department of Labor tells us that of those who were 16 or older, 19% of persons with disabilities were employed compared to 66% of those without a disability. These are not problems of “access,” they are problems of “perception” and perception can only be changed by increasing our capacity for understanding and empathy.

That’s why, to mark our 100th anniversary this spring, Easterseals New Jersey will be holding several pop-up events throughout the state we are calling “Exercises in Empathy.” At these events, people will be walked through short experience-based activities to learn more about disability. Activities include a limited mobility art station, a lip-reading exercise, a schizophrenia and depression experience, as well as a vision-loss/Usher syndrome activity.

Sharing in these experiences allows us to become more aware of not just the challenges having a disability can present, but how people overcome those challenges. This can be a powerful tool in removing the stigma surrounding disability. This shift in thinking is critical as we work together to build a more inclusive New Jersey.

We encourage you to experience our pop-up events. Visit www.easterseals100.org for more information and to learn how you can help create a future where everyone is 100% included and 100% empowered.


Brian Fitzgerald
President/Chief Executive Officer
Easterseals New Jersey