Today is National Beer Day (yes, that’s a thing), and it’s the perfect day to share this new video from MadTree Brewing and Starfire.
It features Michael, who loves beer, and has been working at MadTree since 2013. He’s a vital part of the company and considered part of the family. Watch part one and part two of the video series below.
Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities recently announced its 2016 Opportunity Awards winners, which recognizes and highlights Ohio companies committed to providing employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities.
Meijer was named a Champion of Opportunity for its work in the southwest Ohio region, where the company has face-to-face contact with potential applicants and gives them tours of their facilities. This helps to provide quality vocational guidance for every candidate.
Creating Opportunity Award winners in Greater Cincinnati include:
Hayneedle Distribution Center, Monroe
Koch Foods Inc, Fairfield
Krispy Kreme, Cincinnati
Kroger Market Place, Cincinnati
Mac’s Pizza and Pub, Maineville
Rodizio Grill, Liberty Township
Trade Global, West Chester
Xscape Theaters Northgate Mall, Cincinnati
These awards seek to recognize companies at various levels in the process: from those who have just begun to recruit, hire, and retain individuals with disabilities to those with a proven track record of integrating individuals with disabilities into their work force. See a full list on the OOD website.
“Hi, Laura!” says a customer pushing a cart around a corner. “Hello, how are you?” asks Laura Williams before continuing down an aisle to put an unwanted item back on the shelf.
It’s not unusual for Williams, 34, to exchange smiles and have conversations with shoppers during her shifts at the Mt. Washington Kroger. And often, when out in her Anderson Township neighborhood, she’s recognized by regular customers.
“I get so excited,” she said of seeing customers outside of the store. “It’s awesome. They say hello because I always brighten their day.”
Williams, who has Down syndrome, has worked at the Mt. Washington Kroger for a decade but started at the grocery store’s Loveland location 13 years ago. “She was trying to find a job when we stopped in that Kroger,” said her mom, Steph Tacy. “The store manager talked to her and hired Laura on the spot because she had previous work experience at fast food places.”
Williams has always wanted to work in the community. At 16 years old she came to her parents, her mom said, and told them it was her “time to go and get a job” because her brother also started working when he was 16. “She just wanted to work like everyone else,” Tacy said.
At Kroger, Williams helps with bagging customers’ groceries, gathering carts from the parking lot, cleaning and restocking items people leave at checkout or return to the store. And because she is efficient and dependable, Williams is now acting utility clerk, which means more responsibility.
“Laura is a real help to have around the store – she knows where everything is and you don’t have to hold her hand,” said Stephanie Reed, customer service manager at the Mt. Washington Kroger. “She has a positive attitude and always has a smile on her face. She’s amazing and makes my day every day.”
In all her years at Kroger, Williams has never taken a sick day and was named Employee of the Month. “It was my first time being Employee of the Month, and I’m proud of myself,” she said. “It’s nice to be recognized and feels good.”
More people with disabilities are getting jobs in the community, and the statistics are finally starting to reflect this.
For decades, people with disabilities have participated in the workforce less than the general population. Those numbers are still low (30 percent on average compared to 76 percent for the general population), but record improvements happened during 2016, according to a recent report released earlier this month.
It’s been the longest run of employment gains for Americans with disabilities since the Great Recession. The good news comes just after the National Task Force unveiled a major report that outlines best practices and policy recommendations to help states remove employment barriers for people with disabilities.
“When we think about workforce development just generally, it may not be specifically focused on people living with disabilities. But to me, it’s all about realizing potential,” said Council of State Governments (CSG) Executive Director/CEO David Adkins. “When anyone is excluded, potential is left unrealized.”
About 1 in 5 Americans live with a disability and there are 22 million working-age Americans with disabilities. But many adults and youth with disabilities are unemployed or underemployed despite an ability, desire and willingness to work in the community and contribute to the economy.
The task force convened four subcommittees focused on policy areas that impact the employability of people with disabilities: Career Readiness and Employability; Entrepreneurship, Tax Incentives and Procurement; Transportation, Technology and Other Employment Supports; and Hiring, Retention and Re-entry.
But their love for each other and necessity to work together meant finding a very accommodating employer, which was tricky. “They are just really, really close. Been together their whole lives…never been apart. It was a struggle to find employment because they would have to take on two,” Puckett remarks. “They wanted to work the same shifts.”
Enter Michael Williams, owner and director at R.M. Funeral Services. As a student at Ohio University in Athens, Williams saw a young man with developmental disabilities working at a Wendy’s and vowed that if he started a business, he would do what he could to employ a person with developmental disabilities.
As a small business owner, he was wearing a lot of hats. In addition to cleaning and upkeep around his facility, he was performing all of the day to day business operations. He reached the point when cleaning and general maintenance, which he views as paramount to the success of his business, was falling to the backburner. “Cleaning is a constant. The busier we are, the more cleaning. We want to make sure that our facility is top notch for families,” stresses Williams.
The Cade sisters were matched with R.M. Funeral Services by Employment First Job Coach Ashley Darling and have been employed since March of 2016, working two days a week. Their hard work, earnestness, and attention to detail led to even more work from Williams, such as gardening, and property and building maintenance.
“Once I developed a relationship with them, I knew they would do a great job. There is always something that can be done,” Williams comments. “I wish I could get some of the other business owners here to jump on board. It’s beneficial for [them], beneficial for the person with special needs, and it benefits the customers.”
In addition to cleaning at R.M., the sisters have a great fondness for gardening, and work at a greenhouse. They also clean for other businesses as needed. In their free time, the sisters solve a lot of jigsaw puzzles, and love watching the Ohio University Bobcats play football and basketball.
“Employment First is exemplified by the cooperation of multiple agencies, supports provided through the VCBDD, and the desire of a local business to hire to people’s strengths,” says Tina Spanos from VCBDD. “That is what provided the Cades the springboard to success [at] their jobs.”
The Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities (DODD) oversees a statewide system of supports and services for people with developmental disabilities and their families. The agency’s mission is continuous improvement of the quality of life for Ohio’s citizens with developmental disabilities and their families.
Center for Independent Living Options is hosting a five-week job readiness course beginning Wednesday, Jan. 18. This new class will prepare you for employment through self-assessment, creating a plan and setting goals, finding a job, and learning to manage your career.
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.
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.
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.
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!