MARQUETTE, Mich. (WJMN)- When a person thinks about disability, a physical disability is probably more likely to come to mind. But what about the invisible disabilities?
According to Sarah Peurakoski, executive director for Superior Alliance for Independent Living (SAIL), an invisible disability is defined as disabilities that are not immediately apparent or can truly be seen physically. Invisible disabilities can include visual or auditory impairments, learning disabilities, developmental disabilities such as autism, or mental health impairments such as depression and anxiety disorders.
SAIL states that one in five people live with a disability and every October is Disability Employment Awareness Month. This awareness month is to help remind employers and business owners that hiring those with disabilities is beneficial for their businesses. It also promotes the idea of diversity in the workforce and allows for an open conversation about disabilities and the accommodations that might be needed in the workplace.
SAIL is a disability resource center that provides five services: information and referral, peer support, individual and systems advocacy, independent living skills development, and transition.
One of their main focuses is working “to improve the knowledge and skills of employees that live with disabilities through work-related training, assistance, and consultation. In addition, SAIL strives to support employers with their base of knowledge about the value of hiring individuals with disabilities.”
Peurakoski stated that those with disabilities, especially with invisible disabilities, can be fearful or nervous to speak with their employer about accommodations or even scared they will not be employed because of their disability.
“We want to make sure that employers and employees are talking to each other about what the accommodations are. You should feel okay asking for an accommodation. You don’t have to necessarily identify what your disability is, but it’s important to talk about accommodations so you can be the most successful as possible,” said Peurakoski.
SAIL works with Michigan Rehabilitation Services (MSR), a state agency that helps those with disabilities to find, maintain and retain employment.
MSR has multiple locations across the U.P. and has helped 223 people this year alone into getting jobs. Together SAIL and MSR have worked with over 700 people with disabilities over the past year in an effort to help them learn how to work in the community.
Collaboratively they also provide training assessments that counselors need in order to help individuals move into employment. This includes disability awareness, work readiness, interview prep/resume building.
The main purpose of this awareness month is to encourage an open and comfortable environment in the workplace and to provide to help those with disabilities, invisible or physical, and know that services are available to help gain confidence and the skills needed to be successful.