It’s about changing perceptions and providing a platform for the future.
Three years after Gov. John Kasich signed Ohio’s Employment First into law, Hamilton County Developmental Disabilities Services is putting more energy into finding people jobs in the community.
To accomplish that goal, Nathan Beck was hired as the Employment Coordinator and Lisa Grady was hired as the Transition Supervisor. Both moved into their roles earlier this year.
“Nathan and Lisa are the future of what we will be doing,” said Matt Briner, director of the agency’s Office of Integrated Services. “They will be increasing integration and building capacity by connecting and engaging with local businesses.”
Beck is focused on adults and will talk to local businesses about the benefits of hiring someone with a disability, as well as what on-the-job support is available to make it a successful partnership. He’ll also work with service providers to identify trends and opportunities to employ more people with disabilities.
“I think it’s exciting to help individuals find jobs and gain the financial means that can be part of helping them achieve a better life,” said Beck, who was previously an assistant director at the agency’s Kidd and Beckman adult centers.
“People have a preconceived notion of what we are, and this is about changing perceptions. We’re working to move past businesses hiring as a ‘social cause’ and show them there are benefits. There are so many opportunities to improve employment rates for people with disabilities.”
Grady, who was previously a transition consultant and Bridges program coordinator, is focused on students as they move out of high school and into adulthood.
Some families, Grady said, are afraid of what the future might look like for their son or daughter after school, especially when state law requires all people with disabilities to be on one of the four paths to employment.
“I strive to serve not only the students, but also parents who are concerned about safety, how time will be filled, transportation options, what will be paid for and getting to know businesses,” she said.
“My mission is to make it clear everyone can be viewed as having a future of employment. I want to show families the options they have and provide a platform for diving into the future so individuals can have a full life.”
As the developmental disabilities system changes throughout the state and the country, it will be challenging to convince people to work outside of segregated settings and reassure families that community employment is an option.
“We want to convince them to take a step out of their comfort zone and that their loved ones don’t have to be segregated to be healthy and safe,” Beck said. “As we get more people to take the leap, it’ll be more common.”
In the past, Grady said parents and families did not have to plan direct services, and it’s an area where many feel unsure about how these programs will look and work.
“My firm belief is that, if you put faith in the services we had provided in the past, we’re going to continue that same level of service, quality and care in this changing environment and support individuals and families to the greatest degree possible,” she said.
Briner added that getting people connected and employed “is a huge part of a good life.”
“Lisa and Nathan are bright, passionate, energetic people who have a deep personal commitment to seeing people live, work and play in their local community.”