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Director's Spotlight

Director's Spotlight

Director's Spotlight - October 2011

Alisa Warren, Executive Director of the Missouri Commission on Human Rights

National Disability Employment Awareness Month

A column by Alisa Warren, Executive Director of the Missouri Commission on Human Rights

In October, we recognize the significant contributions that persons with disabilities make in the workplace as part of National Disability Employment Awareness Month. Workers with disabilities are highly motivated performers who generally have much higher retention rates than workers without disabilities, which means reduced recruitment and training costs for employers.

In July 2011, Missouri Gov. Jay  Nixon signed House Bills 555 and 648 onsite at Paraquad, a St. Louis-based organization that empowers people with disabilities. The new law establishes, among several advances for disability rights, October as Missouri Disability History and Awareness Month and directs that state school boards may allow disability history and awareness instruction. “The recent expansion of rights of persons with disabilities in our state shows that Missouri values equality and accessibility,” said Bob Funk, Executive Director, Paraquad. The Whole Person, is a Missouri organization that assists persons with disabilities to live independently.

An estimated 20 percent of U.S. citizens -- and nearly one million Missourians -- have a medical condition that qualifies as a physical or mental disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or the Missouri Human Rights Act (MHRA). These conditions often are not obvious to others and can include common ailments like high blood pressure, diabetes, hepatitis, and epilepsy. If a major life activity, such as a walking, balancing, seeing, hearing, breathing, or working, is substantially limited due to your medical condition, you are protected from workplace discrimination due to your disability.

Through October, the Governor’s Council on Disability, which promotes full participation and inclusion of Missourians with disabilities in all aspects of community life, sponsors a Disability History and Awareness Month display on the second and fourth floors of the Truman Building, 301 W. High Street, Jefferson City.

The Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations is promoting disability awareness month and proper employment practices because Missouri works best when all of its citizens are able to take advantage of public accommodations and employment opportunities. The Missouri Commission on Human Rights (MCHR) is a part of the Department of Labor and the MCHR enforces the Missouri Human Rights Act (MHRA). The MHRA prohibits disability discrimination in employment, housing, and places of public accommodation. If you believe you are a person with a disability who has been discriminated against, contact MCHR at 877-781-4236 or take this assessment to determine if you are eligible to file a complaint with the Commission. To find out more about how employers can profit by investing in workers with disabilities, contact The Whole Person. Learn more about how to celebrate Disability Awareness Month by participating in activities around the state:

  • Learn more about the milestone legislation that drew the largest crowd ever at its signing in the free exhibition, “The Americans with Disabilities Act: 20 Years Later,” at the Missouri History Museum in Forest Park, now through January 8, 2012.
  • Saturday, October 15, 2011: Learn about the independent living philosophy when Paraquad provides a presentation about people living with disabilities at 2 p.m., St. Louis Public Library, Walnut Park branch, 5760 West Florissant Avenue.
  • Thursday, October 20 – Saturday, October 22, 2011: Healthcare professionals and survivors of brain injury and their families may attend the Brain Injury Association of Missouri Conference at the St. Charles Convention Center. To register, call 314-426-4024.
  • Saturday, October 22, 2011: Screen "Disability Culture Rap," a film that mixes artistic expression, politics, and humor to move audiences to a deeper understanding of disability from a minority and cultural perspective, then listen in on a reading from “Where We Can Read the Wind,” an anthology of. The movie and reading is 10 a.m. to noon, at the St. Louis Public Library, Buder branch, 4401 Hampton Avenue.
  • Tuesday, October 25, 2011: Job seekers with disabilities can explore job opportunities with potential employers and service organizations that can assist in job placement during Disability Mentoring Day at the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation Conference Center, 4801 Rockhill Road, Kansas City. The event is free to any individual with a disability living in the Kansas City metro area.

Learn more by exploring these related sites:


  • Watch the signing ceremony of the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act, which occurred on July 26, 1990, on the White House South Lawn, or read the important 2008 law amending the ADA.

Director's Spotlight Archives

November 2011 - Native American Heritage Month
October 2011 - National Disability Employment Awareness
September 2011 - Labor Day: A Tribute to Missouri's Leadership in Worker Protection
April 2011 - How Housing Fraud Can Crush the American Dream
January 2011 - Worker Misclassification is Bad for Business
December 2010 - Working for the Holidays
November 2010 - Unemployment Benefits: Transitioning to Jobs
October 2010 - Protecting a Precious Industry
September 2010 - Labor Day: A Tribute to Missouri Workers
August 2010 - WorkReadyMissouri: Enhancing Missouri's Workforce
July 2010 - Workers' Compensation: Stepping Up Efforts against those Cheating the System
June 2010 - Preparing Missouri for the Evolving Economy
May 2010 - Workers' Memorial Day 2010
April 2010 - Missouri's Unemployment Update