NDEAM Partner Spotlight: Center for Disability Services
Meet Greg Sorrentino, President and CEO of the Center for Disability Services located in Albany, NY . For over 75 years, the Center for Disability Services has been one of upstate New York’s largest providers of programs and services for individuals who have disabilities. The organization is committed to the wellbeing of the people it supports and providing opportunities that lead to more independent lifestyles and productive, happier lives.
Can you share a bit about National Disability Employment Awareness Month?
National Disability Employment Awareness month (NDEAM) is held each year in October and is led by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy. 2020 marks the 75th anniversary of NDEAM, and it also marks the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The observance of both anniversaries is significant, as we continue to increase access and opportunity for individuals in our community with disabilities. In a 2018 Rockefeller Institute Report issued for the New York State Industries for the Disabled, only 39.6% of individuals with disabilities ages 20–64 in New York State were participating in the workforce, compared to 80% of those who do not have a disability. This data is why access and opportunity are so important for individuals with disabilities in the workforce, and why NDEAM is important for all of us in the community to recognize and support in our own businesses and workforces.
What does National Disability Employment Awareness Month mean to you personally?
National Disability Employment Awareness Month for me personally means an opportunity to promote and support those of us in our community who want to work, have the ability to work, and are in need of an organization that sees the potential in someone, not the disability.
What does disability inclusion look like to you, in the workplace and in our world, and why is it critically important in leading us collectively into the future?
Disability inclusion to me, if done right, does not look any different than a traditional workforce. Each organization’s goal should be the success of its employees, and it is the organizations obligation to promote an environment where everyone feels welcome and supported. When done correctly, disability inclusion is a culture, whether in a workforce or the world, and it is seamless to those who participate.
Inclusion of individuals with disabilities in a workforce is critically important, especially in today’s world where there is a tremendous need for quality employees. Individuals with disabilities fill that need in many workplaces, including the Center for Disability Services, where part of our great success as an organization has come from our diverse and inclusive workforce, to which individuals with disabilities had contributed immeasurably.
As an advocate for people with disabilities, what other leaders or members of the community are inspiring you the most to do the work you do, and why?
My inspiration to do this work comes from our staff, families, and Board of Directors. Our staff day in and day out, show incredible skill and compassion in the work they perform, and the results they achieve. They are personally driven by the agency mission and treat those that we support like their family. During this COVID pandemic, staff were supportive of constant change and creative in helping keep those we support safe, while taking care of their own families. Heroic efforts by our staff during regular times, and Super-Heroic during this pandemic, and certainly inspiring to all of us.
My other inspiration is our families who have entrusted the care of their family member to our agency and to our staff. They are the agency’s partner in insuring that the needs are properly identified, and collectively are met. The families are incredibly supportive and appreciative of the work our staff do each day, and you can’t help but be inspired by their commitment to our success.
How can we, as companies and as individuals, stay better informed and committed to the work of “Increasing Access and Opportunity” for all?
Organizations, and the people who make them up, can best stay informed by being involved. Everyone has a gift or a talent that they can share to make any organization or situation better. When companies partner with non-profit organizations such as the Center for Disability Services, access and opportunity will automatically increase for all. We would ask that companies review their own operations and look for opportunities where they can partner with a local non-profit in their community. These types of partnerships focus on increasing access for individuals with disabilities, which will lead to better opportunities for everyone.