The following blog was written by CNCS Disability and Inclusion Advisor Stephanie Enyart.
October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), and the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) is committed to providing opportunities that change the lives of those who serve, as well as those being served. With this commitment, we can create avenues for people with disabilities to greater economic opportunity through the service experience in AmeriCorps and Senior Corps.
Some people with disabilities have the desire to give back to their communities but may not know that accommodations will be made to make their service possible. We work with national service members and CNCS grantees at the national and state level to open doors for those who are ready to serve in our programs.
Serving Creates Opportunity
Today’s employment market remains competitive and job seekers need every advantage they can find. Earlier this year, CNCS research concluded that people who volunteer were 27 percent more likely to find a job than those who didn’t. Those percentages rose for volunteers who live in rural areas (55 percent more likely to find employment) and those without a high school diploma (51 percent more likely to find employment).
This trend held regardless of a person’s gender, age, ethnicity, geographical area, or the job market conditions. The research also found that volunteers were also able to network and make valuable connections that could later help them in their job searches.
This is all good news for volunteers with disabilities, including our wounded warriors who often seek volunteer opportunities when they complete their military service. Another option to serve communities across the country is through our AmeriCorps program.
AmeriCorps members receive a modest living allowance, student loan forbearance, and become eligible for a Segal AmeriCorps Education Award upon the completion of their term of service to expand educational opportunities. Under the Heroes Earning Assistance and Relief Tax Act (HEART Act), AmeriCorps and AmeriCorps VISTA members with disabilities who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits due to their disability can receive an AmeriCorps stipend without losing their disability benefits. For SSI beneficiaries, this income exclusion also includes stipends received while participating in the AmeriCorps NCCC and AmeriCorps State and Local programs.
We all have the desire to make our communities better and resolve the challenges they face. And we all benefit when everyone can be included as part of the solution.
Stephanie Enyart can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.