Good news was coming fast and furious at the beginning of this week on the job front for people with disabilities. Between Delaware Governor Jack Markell introducing his “A Better Bottom Line: Employing People with Disabilities” initiative upon ascending to chair of the the National Governor’s Association on Sunday, and Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), who chairs the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, releasing the report, Unfinished Business: Making Employment of People with Disabilities a National Priority, the following day, very little space was left to focus on some of the individuals and organizations doing the work that has elevated awareness about the effectiveness of people with disabilities when given a chance to be part of the workforce.
One of the best stories this month comes from The Sacramento Bee reporter Mark Glover, who visited an electronics manufacturing plant recently refurbished and opened by PRIDE Industries, an organization that employes more than 2,600 individuals with disabilities nationwide. What made the Roseville facility newsworthy to Glover was not the $3 million investment to upgrade the equipment, but rather that the employees with disabilities were involved in tasks the majority of people generally assume they are not capable of performing.
Check that, actually; assembly, fulfillment, and shipping are exactly the types of jobs that contract services organizations are known to perform reliably. What’s different about the Sacramento plant is the high-tech clientele who have outsourced their work to Americans vs. offshore operations; and in doing so have given people with disabilities a chance to work.
A California-based data center management firm called SynapSense Corp. gave the organization its Supplier of the Year award in 2011. A spokesperson for the company named Sean Bell cited some of those very same benefits to Glover, saying:
SynapSense is truly lucky to work with a world-class manufacturer who is competitive with overseas manufacturing costs, yet maintains the flexibility and real-time communication enabled by their location right here in Northern California…
While productivity and reliability are the priority when making the business case for hiring people with disabilities, there are other workplace benefits. Austin Arceo, a member of the marketing staff at Indiana State University, wrote a nice piece focusing on the element of diversity these workers bring to the school’s recycling center. Their efforts to partner with local agencies to bring employees with disabilities and job coaches into the fold led to recognition from The Terre Haute Human Relations Commission.
Finally, Susan Ladika’s article, “Companies Find Fruitful Results When Hiring Autistic Workers,” in this month’s issue of Workforce Magazine talks to HR professionals about the internal processes needed to make hiring people with disabilities possible. The payoff is worth it for both the company and the individuals who feel their lives matter more through their work. Ladika provides an example toward the end of her article:
Anthony Wilk, who began working at Badger Mountain in 2009, said he was attracted to the job because he had done landscaping work and thought working at the orchard would give him valuable experience. Since taking the job the 34-year-old has purchased a car and hopes to one day move out on his own. ‘It has given me self-confidence and helps me grow. It does help me with my self-esteem.’
As the public-private partnerships proposed by Governor Markell and Senator Harkin begin to blossom, we hope to have more stories with outcomes like Anthony has experienced.