Community celebrates Disability Employment Awareness Month

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COLUMBIA - Community members came together Saturday for a Walk and Roll-A-Thon in recognition of Disability Employment Awareness Month.

The event was hosted by People First of Boone County, a self-advocacy organization run for and by people with disabilities.

"The group believes strongly disability rights are civil rights and that people with disabilities are entitled to an included life in the community, which means employment," Boone County Family Resources manager Mark Satterwhite said.

The organization said people with disabilities are the most unemployed and underemployed demographic in the United States. Less than 15 percent of Missourians with disabilities have jobs, according to the organization.

People First helped Katie Kinder find employment as a clerical assistant at Alternative Community Training in Columbia. She said the group is a family and has empowered her to speak up for herself.

"Our disabilities don't define us. We're still able to do things," Kinder said.

Jason Mize, the organization's vice president, said people with disabilities are often hard workers and very reliable. He hopes more businesses hire and learn about people with disabilities.

"I think people should hire people with disabilities. Get to know us. Get to learn about us. See what we can do, what we need help on, if any help at all. Maybe you'll find out something you never knew about us," Mize said.

The event began at Stephens Lake Park with Columbia City Council member Karl Skala reading a proclamation declaring October as Disability Employment Awareness month in the city.