Finding the right fit at Xavier University

Jason Morency zips around the room refilling napkin holders in his section, occasionally stopping at a table to share one of his signature jokes. It’s around 3 p.m. on a gray January day, and he is in the middle of his shift at Xavier University’s dining hall, where he works about 30 hours a week.

Morency, who has tuberous sclerosis, has been there for six years but began working on the college campus in 2011, as part of Project Search, a job-training program for young adults with disabilities. His first job was delivering mail and he held other positions before switching to the dining hall.

jason 5
Jason Morency smiles in the Xavier University dining hall during his shift. He landed the job after completing Project SEARCH.

“When I found out I was going to be hired, I was excited and speechless,” he said. “I’m very particular and like to make things organized and look neat.”

In addition to filling napkin holders, Morency tops off salt and pepper shakers, wipes down tables and sweeps floors in his sections. Sometimes he also helps co-workers by filling condiments or restocking bread, fruit and other food.

“We’re all about teamwork, and Jason is fast and efficient and good at what he does,” said Denise Harston, who also works in the dining hall. “He always talks to people, jokes with students and is very helpful. We all love him—he’s part of the family.”

Interactions with students and welcoming colleagues are his favorite part of the job. “I feel lucky and fortunate for my schedule and the people I work with,” he said. “It’s fun and can be stressful at times, but that makes you think of the positive parts of the job because there are so many nice people.”

His mom, Sue, said her son enjoys working in the dining hall and got to know a lot of the staff while he was delivering mail. “He’s always thrived when he’s around people,” she said. “He has a wonderful boss who is accepting and understanding, and does a fantastic job of making sure Jason is where he fits best.”

Morency, 27, moved into his own condo in August 2016 , where he continues to collect tabs for the local Ronald McDonald House.  It’s a hobby he began when he was 8 years old and has donated more than 2,500 pounds of tabs, which helps fund the organization’s programs. When not working, he’s also active in the Special Olympics, playing soccer, basketball and other sports.

Advertisements

Creating a technology-accessible workplace

Employers who make workplaces accessible — including with technology — can attract top talent. The Partnership on Employment and Accessible Technology (PEAT) is hosting a webinar for employers to learn how accessible technology can improve their bottom line.

See the description below and register here.

In today’s workplace, technology is one of the central drivers of productivity and success for all workers. But when workplace technology isn’t accessible for everyone, it can cause employers to miss out on top talent. Join the Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion and the Partnership on Employment & Accessible Technology on February 22 for a webinar on creating a technology-accessible workplace. Employers can learn about accessible workplace technology and how to ensure their organization’s technology infrastructure is accessible for everyone, including employees with disabilities.

Determination, support leads to two fulfilling jobs

At the back of the Little Caesar’s Ring Road, Jeff Everett is busy filling pans before the lunch rush hits. He’s focused on his current task, arranging chicken wings in the square pan as if he’s filling in pieces of a puzzle.

Jeff BlogA little later, he moves to the pizza line, swirling sauce on unbaked crusts and topping each one with cheese and pepperoni. “I like all the different things to do, and my co-workers are friendly,” he said.

In addition to his job at Little Caesar’s, he works at Frisch’s two days a week. Jeff, who is 47 and has Down syndrome, was employed before his family moved to Harrison, but finding a job here was a completely different experience.

In Chicago, where the Everett family lived before coming to Cincinnati in July 2016, Jeff went through job training in school and was placed at Jewel-Osco grocery store, where he worked for 28 years, said his mom, Sue.

“Jeff had a big transition to go through when we moved. In Chicago, he did other things as well as work—his life was very full,” she said. “He’s done remarkable with the changes.”

After settling in, Jeff expressed interest in looking for a job because he likes staying busy. Unsure of what opportunities they’d find and worried Jeff would easily fall out of a work routine if he stayed at home with nothing to do, his mom reached out to Nathan Beck, employment navigation supervisor for Hamilton County Developmental Disabilities Services.

“Once he decided he wanted to work, it was full-steam ahead,” Sue said.

Beck sat down with the family to discuss Jeff’s employment goals and locally available resources. He helped them set up a search with Ohio Means Jobs, connected Jeff to Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities and started looking at openings in the community. As they visited local businesses, Sue said the biggest obstacle was the online application process required by many places, including Home Depot, Kroger and McDonald’s.

“I truly believe you’ve got to get in front of someone. For a person seeking employment, especially someone with a disability, it’s a huge barrier and the impression you make in person can make or break the opportunity,” she said.

At Frisch’s, her instinct proved true. Jeff walked in, talked to the restaurant manager and was later hired to clear tables and clean the dining room.

Jeff E ReflectionsWhen he started at Frisch’s in October 2016, he had a job coach, who also followed him to Little Caesar’s when Jeff took on a second job that same month. Tabitha Davis, his supervisor at the pizza chain, said Jeff works independently but his job coach still checks in with him. “I wasn’t sure what to expect, but the longer I worked with Jeff, the easier it was,” Davis said. “He knows what’s expected and is always trying to learn and go to the next level.”

Though Jeff had some difficulty with his job search, he’s happy to be working again. “It’s not always easy, but I like it,” he said. “I knew I could do it on my own and it feels good.”

Shortly after he was hired at Little Caesar’s, his case was opened by Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities, which continued providing a job coach. “Jeff could have waited around but he took initiative—moving careers and leading the whole process,” Beck said. “His family was really supportive. They took him to interviews, helped him apply and assisted with technology when needed.”

The path Jeff took and the job search process was tough, but it’s “not an impossible task,” Sue said. “Fortunately, we had the support and help exploring different options.  We did learn it’s an ongoing process and takes a team!”

When he’s not working, Jeff enjoys watching wrestling with his brother and participating in the Special Olympics.  He also loves to travel and going out to eat.

Webinar: Paving the way to employment

Guided Group Discovery (GGD) is a universal design approach used within workforce development systems to enable youth and adults with disabilities, and others who faces barriers to employment, to secure and maintain employment.

These strategies serve as an alternative assessment tool that identifies the strengths and ideal conditions of employment for job seekers with and without disabilities, resulting in a “blueprint” to guide job development.

A webinar hosted by the LEAD Center is set for 3 p.m. Monday, June 26. Click here for details and registration information.

Participants will learn about Guided Group Discovery pilot projects and how to implement these practices through cross-system partnerships.

Ambition leads to right fit for work

For Eddie Gregory, getting a job he enjoys took some work. He had a job at Kroger but was looking for something more fulfilling. Gregory, who lives in Oakley, knew the LADD-owned Find A Way apartment complex was having trouble finding and retaining someone to clean the building.

EddieBLOGHe kept talking to the manager and letting him know he wanted the job. His persistence paid off when he was hired last June to clean the building and perform other light maintenance tasks.

“I’m a hard worker, and it feels good when people notice the cleanliness of the building. And I enjoy it,” Gregory said.

Neil Ferencak, LADD’s coordinator for Find A Way, said they went through a few different employees before hiring Gregory. “It’s a big help having Eddie here,” he said. “He’s reliable and positive, and he also has really good interactions with the residents.”

Resident Adelaide Geier said he does a really good job, and she’s happy with his work. “I’ve been here a long time and noticed a difference. It’s very clean,” she said.

Gregory works a few hours each day during the week, following a list of tasks that need completed. And he’s also learning new skills that help him with projects at home, which he shares with a young family.

He likes making money, which he’s saving to go on trips, but his favorite part of the job is becoming close with many of the residents who live at Find A Way. “I made a lot of friends and now we do more stuff together,” he said.

It took him a while to find the right fit, and Gregory advises others looking for a job in the community to not get discouraged. “Keep trying out different things until you find something you’re interested in,” he said.

Culture of inclusion leads to business success

What does successful workplace inclusion for people with disabilities look like? An innovative program at Worldport, UPS’s main air sorting hub in Louisville, Kentucky, is game-changing, reframing disability inclusion not only as social responsibility but also as a means of meeting strategic business needs.

The UPS Transitional Learning Center (TLC) is a cooperative effort between UPS and the Coalition for Workforce Diversity (via Options Unlimited, Inc.) to allow people with disabilities – who are sourced through the Coalition – to experience UPS jobs through hands-on training. Another partner, the Kentucky Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, provided support for the Coalition for Workforce Diversity and the individual youths in the TLC. UPS Worldport and its Transitional Learning Center are playing an important role in advancing innovative solutions for connecting people with disabilities to meaningful employment.

Read the report on the LEAD Center’s website.

The National Center on Leadership for the Employment and Economic Advancement of People with Disabilities (LEAD) is a collaborative of disability, workforce and economic empowerment organizations led by National Disability Institute with funding from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy

WEBINAR: The business case for accessible technology

The Employer Assistance and Resource Network (EARN) is hosting a free webinar at 2 p.m. Thursday, April 13.

Technology is one of the central drivers of productivity and success in today’s workplace, for all workers. But when the technology in your workplace is inaccessible to people with disabilities, it impedes employees from performing to their fullest potential. This webinar will address the basics of employer responsibilities and opportunities related to accessibility of websites, online systems, mobile applications, and other forms of information and communication technology.

Click here to register and see the panelists.