ELIZABETH – Joy Smith of Elizabeth has been laying out clothes and stocking the shelves and racks at Marshalls in Clark for 24 years. She is valued by her employer and liked by her coworkers. She allots her paycheck for bills, rent and recreational activities and is saving for a cruise to the Bahamas this November.
Smith, who has a hearing impairment and other disabilities, could be the poster child for National Disability Employment Awareness Month, a national campaign held each October to raise awareness about disability employment issues and celebrate the many and varied contributions of American workers with disabilities, according to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL).
There are 28.7 million Americans with disabilities who are employed, representing more than 5 percent of the U.S. workforce, according to DOL. This year’s theme for National Disability Employment Awareness Month is “A Strong Workforce is an Inclusive Workforce: What Can YOU Do?”
Smith can do quite a lot at her job. When new clothes come in at the children’s and infants department where she works, she gets to enjoy the
“I like bringing out the new clothes and hanging them,” Smith said. “I like putting out the new children’s clothing.”
Smith has seen plenty of new lines come in at Marshall’s in her 24 years.
“I like my job,” she said. “I like the people I work with and my boss. I like working with the children.”
Smith’s employers like her, as well.
“Joy is a good associate,” said Kyle Counts, an assistant manager at the store. “She’s very dependable. We rely on her. She produces great quality of work.”
Smith has been a member of Community Access Unlimited (CAU) in Elizabeth for 30 years. CAU provides housing, life skills training and support services to people with disabilities and at-risk youth. She lives independently in an apartment. Her support counselor is Adeyemi Ajijedidun.
Even though Smith saw her hours at Marshalls cut back this year she has not lost her passion for working or for life.
“Joy is a very happy person,” Ajijedidun said. “She always believes things are going to get better. She’s always very positive. She’s very hardworking and when the store cut back her hours she simply said it will get better next week. She is her name – she is a joy.”
Approximately 54 million Americans have at least one disability, making them the largest minority group in the nation, according to the Disability
Funders Network. As the baby boomer population ages and more veterans return from war, this number will double in the next 20 years, the network says.
Employers interested in hiring people with disabilities or learning more about adopting workplace flexibility practices and tools to help people with disabilities succeed on the job can visit the Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy at www.dol.gov/odep.
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