Record gains in employment for people with disabilities

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.

Graphic from National Trends in Disability Employment monthly update
Credit: National Trends in Disability Employment monthly update

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.

Read more in this Huffington Post article.

Guest post: Finding the perfect fit with a local business

Contributed by the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities

The Cade sisters love to be with each other, and they love to clean. “Cleaning is their thing,” says Rebecca Puckett, an SSA at the Vinton County Board of Developmental Disabilities (VCBDD).

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.”

Margaret and Mamie Cade with Michael Williams at his business, where both sisters work.
Margaret and Mamie Cade with Michael Williams at his business, where both sisters work.

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.

Job readiness course starts Jan. 18

searchCenter 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.

Participants will receive a certificate of completion at the end of the five-week course, which is held every Wednesday from 1-2 p.m. Click here for a flier or email Yonel Robinson for more information.

2016: Expanding awareness and showcasing employment successes

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.

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Sharon Whitling shows off some of the famous treats at Cheesecake Please Cafe

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.

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Matthew Wheeler is fast, efficient and does his work with a smile.

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.

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Joe Lautenslager and Diann Shafer of Kings Island at the Workforce Solutions Summit

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.

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Nakiea Spaulding at her job at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. She was featured in our commercials this year.

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!

New app makes skills-based match between employers and job seekers

Applying for a job can be nerve-wracking. Did I hit all the right keywords? Will my skills match what their looking for in this position? Does a real person even look at my résumé?

That’s where a new app called “Tilr” hopes to help. The Cincinnati startup offers an alternative to the traditional recruitment process by matching people to jobs purely on skills that are inserted into an app. Instead of hiring managers relying on keyword matches or titles reflecting previous experience from job seekers’ resumes, an algorithm helps match people to jobs based on the skills employers are looking for. Once a match happens, then the job seeker has an opportunity to accept or decline an available position.

Though originally conceived as a way to help veterans and caregivers re-enter the workforce, Tilr could also help people with disabilities find the right job. Read more in this article from The Cincinnati Enquirer.

A different approach to finding a job

For people with disabilities, the unemployment rate is more than double that of people without disabilities. And statistics show people with disabilities participate in the labor force at a much lower rate than the general population.

But for many in Cincinnati, the goal of working in the community is becoming a reality, thanks to Starfire’s approach that rethinks how people get jobs.

Starfire is … building people’s social connections. Landing a job often comes down to “who you know,” but the average person with developmental disabilities only has a network of 2 community relationships (unpaid, non-family, people without disabilities). At Starfire, 92% of the jobs attained with our support come directly from social connections, so we know our approach is working, even though it makes us a little different. We don’t invest people’s time and efforts on repetitive “job training readiness” such as mock interviews, resume building, or piecemeal work. Instead, we help people be “known” for their gifts and passions, so that when they apply for a job, their proven abilities are at the forefront of employer’s minds.

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Becky at SAF Holland

That’s led to many success stories like Becky, who works at SAF Holland. She turned to Starfire to help her build confidence and get out in the workforce. It includes people like Molly, who works at Neyra. Her supervisor has said Molly is “always so considerate and she always remembers little tidbits about people. She’s able to help get a lot of the administrative duties out of the way. So it’s helped free up a lot of their time to make our process in finances more efficient.”

Starfire’s approach has also helped Mike, who works at Contemporary Cabinetry East, and Craig, who works at Kinetic Vision. Learn more on Starfire’s Cincibility blog. 

VIDEO: Finding and keeping a job in the community

Sometimes finding a job can be tough. But with determination and the right supports, people with developmental disabilities are finding work in the community.

The latest video from the Southwestern Ohio Regional Council of Governments and the WORKing Together Collaborative focuses on families and what others can do to help people set goals and succeed, including:

  • Self-Advocacy
  • Local agency support
  • School teams and planning
  • Parent/Family member support and input

It features Chelsia Carter, who works at McDonald’s and The Arbors, Zachariah McCall, who works at Panera Bread, Garrett Doerr, who works at Kroger, and Rachel Rice, who works three jobs — one at a transportation company, another at Production Services Unlimited, and one at the Warren County Court of Common Pleas.