NYC circus receives Leading Disability Employer Award

The King Charles Troupe performing on stage.
The King Charles Troupe performing on stage.
Maike Schulz

Omnium Circus, based in New York City, was named a 2022 Leading Disability Employer by the National Organization on Disability (NOD). The award was presented at NOD’s Annual Forum on Sept. 29 in Washington, D.C.

This award was presented in recognition of National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), celebrated every year in October. “We are beyond thrilled and honored to be recognized for this prestigious NOD Award which acknowledges our commitment to people of all abilities,” said Lisa B. Lewis, founder and executive director of Omnium Circus.

“True allyship in action is employing the disabled with meaningful work. As a disabled employee of Omnium Circus, it’s been life changing to be a part of a team that truly sees my disabled experience as an asset to their mission,” said Marie Dagenais-Lewis, social media manager at Omnium Circus and Operations Manager at Diversability.

Ringmaster Johnathan Lee Iverson and Anna Gichan on stage.
Ringmaster Johnathan Lee Iverson and Anna Gichan on stage. Maike Schulz

According to Lewis, the process of employing disabled people at Omnium is different, depending on the role they fulfill, despite there being limited opportunities in the past.

“Every time we put a show together we make sure we have a balance of diversity and ability. For our staff, our lighting designer, we met at Gallaudet. The office team, we both advertise this and work through organizations such as JobPath NY, Visions and others who provide job training for individuals with various disabilities. They start with us as interns and so far we have hired from that pool for staffing,” Lewis stated..

Additionally, Lewis said that Omnium has reached out to other circus schools and encouraged them to accept more students with disabilities, and now there is work for them.

Rik Daniels on stage.
Rik Daniels on stage. Maike Schultz

Currently, Omnium performers based in NYC are the all African-American King Charles Troupe, African-American ringmaster, Johnathan Lee Iverson, and disabled dancers Anna Gichan and Rik Daniels.

The advocacy work done at Omnium includes workshops and programs taught in schools and camps specifically serving those with disabilities.

“Last summer we added Camp Smile for the blind and neurodiverse population, Camp Jabberwocky, and several adult programs. This summer, we will be adding Camp Pa Qua Tuck, along with many schools. These programs are geared for fun and confidence building,” Lewis continued.

To support Omnium Circus and its work, you can follow the company on all its social media platforms and donate. You can find this information, and more, at https://omniumcircus.org/.

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