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Supporting National Disability Employment Awareness Month

October 18, 2021
Supporting National Disability Employment Awareness Month

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month. The purpose of this annual observance is to educate about disability employment issues and celebrate the many and varied contributions of America’s workers with disabilities.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, people with disabilities make up the largest protected class of citizens under law and are the third largest market segment. Yet:

  • The percentage of people with disabilities over age 16 participating in the labor force is 21.3% compared to the 67.9% of the nondisabled population.
  • The unemployment rate in the U.S. among nondisabled jobseekers is 5.4%, while the rate for people with disabilities is more than double that at 12.6%.

The disability community faces significant barriers to inclusion in our economy, including physical, attitudinal and political systems designed without their input.

Greater St. Louis, Inc. firmly believes that the voices of the disability community must be included when making decisions about growing our regional economy.

The full inclusion of people with disabilities in the St. Louis regional economy means listening to and empowering proximate leaders — those with the expertise and wisdom in the impacted community. These individuals know how to tackle the complex systemic barriers that prevent the inclusive growth needed to move our region forward together. This vision for inclusive growth that we steward as Greater St. Louis, Inc. includes the disability community, and we are so thankful for their active participation in shaping the STL 2030 Jobs Plan.

The STL 2030 Jobs Plan includes specific measures to ensure access to economic independence for people with disabilities. We call out disability as a part of our diverse St. Louis community and encourage our members to do the same. We look to universal and inclusive design practices to ensure people of all abilities have ease of access to housing, cultural centers and public rights of way. We applaud the efforts of St. Louis Community College Workforce Solutions Group, an industry-led and skills-based training program, which has partnered with Access U to provide training for instructors on identifying students with disabilities and providing accommodations.

In our effort to make St. Louis a hub for next-generation industries and technologies, we applaud the efforts of our member companies like Bayer, Boeing, Centene Corporation, Clayco, and the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, as well as others, for mentoring youth with disabilities and motivating them to dream big about their futures. We welcome disabled-owned businesses to apply for the Diverse Business Accelerator.

Throughout this month, Greater St. Louis, Inc. has been engaging in a variety of activities to educate its members and the public on disability employment issues and its commitment to an inclusive work culture. These efforts include partnering with Starkloff Disability Institute in a series of educational workshops led by the disability community. STLMade has also featured national disability rights leader Colleen Starkloff in the article highlighted below.

Employers and employees in all industries please join our efforts in recognizing the importance of the disability community in our workplaces and economy. Get involved, listen, learn — and hire. St. Louis works best when everyone works.

You can learn more about how to participate in National Disability Employment Awareness Month and the STL 2030 Jobs Plan by visiting and downloading the STL 2030 Jobs Plan at

Colleen Starkloff of  Starkloff Disability Institute and friend David Newberger demonstrate the universal design features of Sarkloff's kitchen design. Photo: RJ Hartbeck

Colleen Starkloff of Starkloff Disability Institute and friend David Newberger demonstrate the universal design features of Starkloff’s kitchen design. Photo: RJ Hartbeck

Starkloff Legacy Enhances Equity and Inclusion for People with Disabilities

In the 1970s, Colleen and Max Starkloff began a lifelong journey to change the way people with disabilities move, live and work in the world — and the way the world views and interacts with them as well. Here in St. Louis, they founded Paraquad and, later the Starkloff Disability Institute, to champion equity, independence and full societal participation for people with disabilities. Read more about their life’s work on