Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Hiring differently-abled people

I don't know if I've mentioned it, but I work with differently-abled young adults who are transitioning out of school into the adult world.  The program is a really fabulous opportunity for these students.  Our state requires 3 additional years of transition training for students who have gone through 4 years of high school (so our program is for 18-21 year-old's).  What we really do is job training and life-skills training. 

I love working with these young people and am thrilled to be part of helping them learn to be independent!  Working with them has really opened my eyes as to their incredible strength of spirit and amazing resilience.  If so-called "normal" people had half of their inner personal strength, I think a lot more would get done.

I am wondering though, why so many businesses view them as less-valuable than "normal" employees?  In reality, many of my students can do jobs as well as "normal" people - they may require a bit more investment in time and training at first.   Yet in spite of their dedication to their jobs, our students are often the first ones let go when a business starts experiencing money problems.

I am examining my business and product ideas to see if I can find ways to create jobs for them (in the future, when/if my company becomes a bit more successful) that will not only benefit them - but my company as well.   As an example of a win-win situation, there is a business owner who sells Mason Bees and Hives online.  He brings in supplies for my students to put together into hives which the owner then sells.  His business is booming and our students are gaining valuable work experience.  What an awesome opportunity for both sides - the students and the business owner! 

I challenge you to do something similar!!  Think outside of your "normal" box when looking at potential employees.  Hire a differently-abled person (or two!) and I bet you'll be wonderfully surprised by what happens.

If you'd like more information, here are a couple of links for programs in Washington State and/or National Programs.

*Or feel free to contact me and I'll do my best to point you towards additional resources.

WISE - Washington Initiative for Supported Employement

Best Buddies International  (www.bestbuddies.org)

Gladnet  (www.gladnet.org)

JAN (Job Accommodation Network)  (janweb.icdi.wvu.edu)

National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability   (http://www.ncwd-youth.info/)

U.S. Office of Disability Employment Policy  (http://www.dol.gov/odep/)

Office of Employment Support Programs  (www.ssa.gov/work)