SAN FRANCISCO, Oct. 21, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Global Japanese retailer Uniqlo was named "Employer of the Year" at Gatepath's "Power of Possibilities" recognition event for its commitment to hiring adults with special needs and disabilities.
"It's such an honor to receive this award for Uniqlo. Every single store hires workers with disabilities," said Rachel Golden, assistant manager of the Uniqlo at the Hillsdale Shopping Center. "I am proud to work for a company that believes in its employees, and gives people with special needs the opportunity to grow and realize their full potential."
Gatepath is the largest and oldest nonprofit serving children, youth and adults with special needs and disabilities in the Silicon Valley for 95 years, and helps families worldwide through its online resource center at AbilityPath.org. Each year, the nonprofit recognizes extraordinary employers and individuals who are dedicated to improving the lives of people with special needs and disabilities.
Uniqlo Regional Manager Taichi Namura said one of the keys to building strong teams is for managers to recognize that differences do exist between all individuals, and not just for those with special needs. "Managers are trained to focus on each person's strengths, and not their weaknesses," said Namura.
"As a global organization, Uniqlo is leading the way for creating a corporate culture of acceptance and inclusion of people with disabilities," said David Wisnom III, chair of Gatepath's Board of Directors. "In just over a year, they have hired nine of our participants in multiple stores in the Bay Area, which is really incredible."
Employers like Uniqlo who hire people with disabilities are not only giving them job skills, said Wisnom, but they are giving them a sense of independence, self-confidence, and ultimately they are giving individuals with disabilities a chance to not only succeed in the workplace, but in their personal lives.
Actress Holly Robinson Peete, who gave the keynote address, shined a spotlight on the importance of advocating for people with special needs. As the parent of an 18-year-old son with autism, Robinson Peete spoke to more than 400 event attendees about why she made it her mission to spread autism awareness through her HollyRod Foundation, and shared her perspective as a parent.
When Robinson Peete was asked what she thought was the most impactful way to change the general perception of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in communities, she said "It starts at home."
"We need parents of typically developing kids to be able to talk to their kids about how to interact with our kids (who have special needs)," said Robinson Peete, who is currently filming a docuseries of her day-to-day family life for the Oprah Winfrey Network. "We need parents to join the conversation. It's not just our issue; it should be everybody's issue."
Robinson Peete followed the keynote by joining a panel discussion with actor David DeSanctis and director Chris Dowling of the feature film "Where Hope Grows" to talk about the media's role in more accurately portraying people with disabilities in film, TV and social media to shatter negative stereotypes. DeSanctis has received accolades for being the first person with Down syndrome to hold the lead role in a feature film in the U.S.
"After working with David on this film, I learned that the potential of people with special needs is limitless if given the chance to try," said Dowling, who hired David for the co-starring role in his film without ever having worked with someone with Down syndrome before. DeSanctis played a capable grocery store produce clerk in the film, whose positive outlook on life inspires personal change in a professional baseball player struggling to overcome alcohol addiction.
Wisnom says the annual Power of Possibilities event is held in October to coincide with National Disability Employment Awareness Month. We want to highlight stories of people and organizations that are making a significant difference in advancing inclusion in the workplace and in schools.
"We are proud to have dedicated partners, donors, and advocates join with us each year to host this incredible event that highlights the work being done in our communities to turn disabilities into possibilities," said Wisnom.
The event was sponsored by Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy, Norman S. Wright Mechanical Equipment, Sutter Health Mills-Peninsula Health Services, Hillsborough Auxiliary to Community Gatepath, Arborwell, Peter Sortwell, Diane Christensen Mason and Charlie Mason, Christensen & Rafferty Fine Jewelry, Dr. Brian and Carol Roach, Jeanne and William Barulich, Palo Alto Medical Foundation, Wells Fargo, iHeartradio Kiss 98.1 FM, iHeartradio 101.3 Star FM, and the San Mateo Daily Journal.
For more than 95 years, Gatepath has been "Turning Disabilities Into Possibilities." As one of the premier nonprofits in Silicon Valley, Gatepath provides inclusive programs for people with special needs at all stages and ages. These programs enable Gatepath to create opportunities of greater independence for children, youth, and adults with special needs and disabilities, empowering both individuals and families through diverse, individualized education and support services. Our dedicated staff encourage physical, developmental, and social well-being at all levels, including early intervention and therapy for children, inclusive preschools, support services for families, social communication programs for youth, vocational training for adults, and employment placement. An online resource center is available at AbilityPath.org and peer-to-peer programs allow parents to share expertise and insights.
Contact: Julia Ballantyne, Gatepath