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Health Matters: Workforce diversity includes people with disabilities

For 20 years, Marcell Bassett has worked a full-time job in the Recovery Department at IKEA in Orange County.  IKEA, the world’s largest home furnishing company, was founded more than 60 years ago in Sweden.

It may not seem remarkable to hold a job for two decades; however, for a person with a disability, it is quite an accomplishment for both the employer and the employee.

To encourage employers to include people with disabilities in the workforce, October has been designated as National Disability Employment Awareness Month. Established in 1945 as National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week, with a name change in 1962 dropping the words “physically handicapped” and in 1988 expanded to a month observance, it is a reminder to employers that a disability does not mean a person lacks the ability to be a valuable contributor to a company’s bottom line.

At the age of 4, Bassett was diagnosed with autism, a brain disorder. His parents, seeking a better way to handle the complex challenges of an autistic child, moved from Missouri to Southern California.

Bassett’s path to learning to thrive on the autistic spectrum and eventually live independently began when his parents enrolled him in the Regional Center of Orange County.

Bassett was one of the first children to take advantage of the various programs and services offered, which prepared him, now that he is an adult, to be gainfully employed and live an independent life.

“The Regional Center of Orange County is one of 21 private, nonprofit organizations contracted by the state of California to coordinate lifelong services and supports for individuals with developmental disabilities and their families,” said Larry Landauer, executive director of the center. “RCOC is the first stop for those seeking to obtain local services and support to help them live safely and with dignity in the community.”

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