The disabled community in central New York this week celebrates the 22nd anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. While there have been so many successes in the fight for equal access for the disabled, there is still work to be done.
The people who work in the employment services division of ARISE Child and Family Service have success stories of disabled people who find jobs. Darlene Clock tells of a man with a communication barrier, bumping around at different jobs at Walmart, before finding a fit.
"As time went on, he was actually able to come out of his shell and overcome his barriers, and recently received the employee of the month award," said Clock.
Sadly, this story isn't the norm. ARISE Executive Director Tom McCown says employment is still a barrier for many disabled Americans. Is it discrimination?
"How else to we explain that nearly two-thirds of disabilities don't have jobs. How blatant is it? I think employers have learned to be smart about it. But for whatever reason it's not happening and we need to correct it."
That's one reason ARISE held an employment fair in conjunction with the 22nd anniversary celebration of the American's with Disabilities Act.
Employment councilor Kevin McLaughlin says one of the best ways to promote hiring for the disabled, is to just try it.
"Once we have an employer that's not used to working with someone with a disability have exposure to having them on the workforce, oftentimes, they are so happy with the work they provide, that they come to us asking if we have someone else who can fulfill job duties that they're looking for," McLaughlin said.
The struggling economy has made it difficult for many to find employment in central New York, making the already difficult path to work for the disabled even more so.
"There's a lot of competition right now for jobs. A lot of overqualified people looking for jobs they wouldn't normally take," said McLaughlin. "So you add on an individual with a disability, it's often perceived by an employer as higher liability. Oftentimes they'll go with someone else over someone with a disability even through they are more than qualified to perform that job."
Employment counselor Jennifer Scheibler says many employers don't realize is there is a slew of supportive employment programs that can help.
"We can provide incentives to buy an individual a little bit more time in order to have them trained properly," said Scheibler. "We also supply additional support such as a job coach who can learn the job with them. And they can come up with new ideas and techniques for an individual to learn a job, that maybe an employer wouldn't think of."