This past year was filled stories recognizing how successful people with disabilities can be when they work in the community—not just by us as an agency or a blog but also by our local partners, statewide media and even Ellen DeGeneres.
We highlighted the stories of Sharon Whitling, who works at Cheesecake, Please! in Colerain Township; David Walters, who has worked for Frisch’s for 25 years; Leah Alexander, whose creativity shined while she worked at Sewn in Oakley; and Zachariah McCall, whose smile lights up the Panera restaurant in Kenwood.
Emily Schneider’s story showed how customizing employment benefited both her and one local Marco’s Pizza, where she enjoys making the dough. And Jillian Daugherty shared, in her own words, what it was like to have a job she loves in the athletic department at Northern Kentucky University.
Other successes include: Ron Martin, who has cerebral palsy and works in the mail room at our agency’s Support Center; Matthew Wheeler, who learned skills at Franks Adult Center that helped him get a job at Kroger; Hannah Hartman, who is nonverbal and worked in the Mercy Hospital Fairfield stock room while attending Rost School; and students at Fairfax School, who learned assembly line skills to pack food bags for a local charity.
We debuted a new column by HCDDS Benefits Specialist Antonio Akins about how having a job impacts benefits like Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). His column joined others by Employment Coordinator Nathan Beck, who wrote about how data can drive disability hiring initiatives, and Transition Supervisor Lisa Grady, who provided insight on using preferences, interests, needs and strengths (PINS) to find the right fit for transition-age students.
Local providers like Ohio Valley Goodwill, Easterseals serving Greater Cincinnati, and Living Arrangements for the Developmentally Disabled (LADD) also told stories about people with developmental disabilities who are successfully employed in the community. And the Down Syndrome Association of Greater Cincinnati and Starfire shared how they’re reaching out to businesses to get more people jobs.
As a region, the continued partnership among the county boards of DD in Butler, Clermont, Hamilton and Warren counties is making strides. Together, we produced four 30-second television commercials featuring people from each county that aired throughout the year. We also debuted two new videos—one aimed at businesses and the other for individuals and families—that have been widely shared, including at a regional Workforce Solutions Summit where businesses shared strategies for making people with disabilities part of diversity and inclusion hiring initiatives.
And the message of “Employment Works for People with Disabilities” reached the broadest possible audience with television promos airing throughout Super Bowl Sunday.
These efforts are starting to get more recognition from Cincinnati media and other outlets around the state. Local 12 told the story of a coffee shop in Covington that helps with job training and how thinking outside the box created a new position for Doug Goering. WCPO shared how persistence helped Brianne Hoagland get a job she loves. The Columbus Dispatch highlighted a job-training program that focuses on soft skills to improves success rates, as well as a partnership between ARC Industries and Cheryl’s Cookies.
Nationally, the U.S. House Small Business Committee conducted a hearing on disability inclusion and heard from Terri Hogan, owner of Contemporary Cabinetry East, who has employed people with disabilities for years. “Hiring people who are physically, genetically or cognitively diverse is not just the right thing to do, it is the smart thing to do,” she told the Committee. Even Ellen DeGeneres shined a light on employment for people with disabilities by having viral video star Sam, the dancing barista with autism, and his manager Chris on her national talk show.
But our Employment Spotlight blog isn’t just about sharing successes—we try to provide resources to businesses and job seekers. We highlighted the new hiring toolkit for employers and managers, the Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities new hiring hotline and website for job seekers, the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber’s Diverse by Design pilot program and related events, as well as how big tech companies report on disability inclusion in the workplace.
It’s nice to look back and reflect on how far we’ve come regarding employment for people with developmental disabilities, but it’s also important to recognize this work is far from complete. We hope you’ll continue on this journey with us in 2017!