A blog post

National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM)

Posted on the 17 October, 2018 at 11:04 am Written by in News


In celebration of National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), the National Disability Rights Network (NDRN) has gathered together a collection of stories which highlight individuals with disabilities who are successfully employed in the community.

NDEAM dates back to 1945 when Congress declared the first week in October “National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week.” Since that time NDEAM has evolved to include the entire disability community and the emphasis has shifted to focus on employment in the community at competitive wages.

It is our hope that the stories below will spotlight the multitude of skills and talents of people with disabilities and the important impact that they have on our society. We will update this page each day for the entire month of October with a new story.

Stephen Coston

I have an auditory processing disability.  1979 was my senior year at the Bergen County Vocational School in Teterboro, NJ. At that time the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Service program had upgraded grant programs for post-secondary education for Special Needs Adults ages 21 and up to have the opportunity to go to college or any other post-secondary training program.  I was fortunate to receive those funds for my eligibility for higher education training at a program called the Para Educator Center at New York University.  It was a program that teaches young adults with various disabilities to become Teacher’s Aides or Assistants.

I worked as a Teacher’s Aide for one year only making a poverty income at $6000 per year from 1981 to 1982. Then I was laid off due to cut in Federal Funds.

 I did not want to end up in a dead end job making a stagnant salary such as working in a supermarket stuffing grocery bags or these workshop trainings that were being provided for disabled people who had intellectual or development disabilities.  I was mainstream.  But no one understood that during the 1970’s to the mid 80’s.

I invested my own finances to go back to school.  I studied at Dover Business College to learn computer courses.  I graduated with a College Diploma in March of 1993. Previously I worked for AEP Inc. (Automated Excluding Plastics) for 20 years, but I was laid off in August of 2017 due to a Corporation merger. I am working as a Mail Room Supervisor for Coach Inc. With my salary  I can support myself and my wife.

During the time I was unemployed, I went for training at the One Stop Career Programs and improved my academics in reading and math.  From 5th grade level in reading and math, I improved in reading to 12 grade in reading and 10th  grade in math through the Learning Link program which uses computers to help students with disabilities get the high school diploma or GED.

Eunice Kennedy Shriver said, on the 50th. Anniversary of the Special Olympics, “YOUR DAYS OF SEGREGATION AND ISOLATION ARE OVER”! As a Special Olympics Athlete of New Jersey, I am included on the Special Olympics Sports Complex of New Jersey Wall Poster in tribute of Inclusion Sports for the Special Olympics.  However, this is true not only in sports.  Inclusion also includes careers and good paying jobs, education and living on your own.  This is what integrated employment means to me.