Autumn reminded us about the importance of disability awareness.
Every October we look to the trees and are amazed by the beautiful fall leaves. The combinations of red, gold, burgundy, yellow and orange interspersed, year after year, inspire and energize. If “variety is the spice of life”, then one only has to look at the scenery to authenticate this saying, for it is not as noteworthy without the assortment of colors.
So when you find out that the month of October is recognized as National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), it should be easy to remember; fall foliage equals diversified workforce equals fulfilled lives.
By using these analogies it would seem commonplace that employers are eager to hire people with disabilities. It is a person’s abilities, experiences, knowledge and personality that employers look at, right? This is not always the case. In our fast-paced, results-driven society, companies tend to place a focus on the disability as it is easier to hire someone who can immediately do the physical tasks of the job, thus yielding the quickest results. Unfortunately for these companies, what they are failing to recognize is that sometimes those who need a little additional training mature into the most valuable and loyal employees.
Try A Sample
Vincent has been working at Sam’s Club in Kingston for more than 10 years. His job is to greet customers and entice them to try some of the highlighted products of the day. While he enjoys chatting with shoppers, handing out tasters and cashing his well-earned paycheck, after eight years on the job he was faced with an obstacle. In 2009, Vincent was laid off and subsequently rehired with a few changes. Advantage Sales & Marketing was contracted to manage all the “samplers” at Sam’s Club. As a result, Vincent had to learn to use a computer, clock in and out online, and provide a review of his day. For many people, this may seem like a simple hurdle, but when you don’t have a computer… or the Internet… learning to acclimate to the new job requirements becomes much more dramatic.
“Vincent is great! He knows his job inside and out. While there was a time when he needed extra help to learn some of the computer requirements, you would never know now,” says Roseann Shivers, Club Supervisor.
“We all encounter hurdles in life. It’s important to remember this when you are working with people. Everyone should have the chance to show their worth and what they are able to do. When I have vacancies, I look to agencies like Ulster-Greene ARC to help fill them”.
It is thanks to supervisors like Roseann and companies such as Advantage Sales & Marketing who see the value in a diversified workforce. They are not alone. Over the years, Ulster-Greene ARC has worked with more than a hundred businesses within Ulster, Greene, Dutchess, Sullivan and Orange Counties. This year Advantage Sales & Marketing, Shop Rite of New Paltz, James’ General Store in Napanoch and Sodexo at SUNY New Paltz, were recognized as Local Employers of Merit at the Mid Hudson Employment Alliance’s NDEAM Awards Event for their efforts in maintaining a diverse workforce.
So What do You Think?
“During the first month, I was not sure if it was going to work out,” says James Dolaway, owner of James’ General Store (above left with Brittany). “But it did. You just have to trust in the process”.
In 2008, James was chatting with Gwen Perry, one of his regulars, who happens to be a Senior Job Developer for Ulster-Greene ARC. He said that he needed someone to open the store in the mornings and she told him that we have the girl for you.
“I love my job. It was hard at first, but now I do everything at the store,” adds Brittany, James’ self-proclaimed best worker who will not only open the store in the mornings, but close it in the evenings as well.
“Everyone should have the opportunity to work. We need to ignite other employers to take a chance. Ulster-Greene ARC really is like a recruitment agency. They have quality applicants,” affirms James.Pictured above are James & Brittany from James’ General Store in Napanoch
“It Feels Good”
While there are many people interested in gaining employment within the greater community, there are an equally large number of folks who prefer the work they have been doing for years. Since 1970, Ulster-Greene ARC’s Pilot Industries has taken on this role, partnering with companies to secure packaging and assembly subcontracted work. One of these vendors is New York State Industries for the Disabled’s (NYSID) Preferred Source Solutions. Through NYSID, the employees at Pilot Industries in Ellenville package drug test kits, which are sold to a variety of courts and organizations throughout New York State. Every year, NYSID acknowledges workers through their William B. Joslin Outstanding Performance Awards Program, who uphold the ideals of Positivity, Accomplishment, Teamwork, Integrity and more. This year, our very own Hiram was bestowed this honor.
Hiram has experienced such personal growth as a result of his job. A man of few words, Hiram’s smile lights up a room and within the past year has begun to blossom. With consistent coaching at work and a team of people who collaboratively support him, Hiram now asks for more work instead of sitting idle while waiting to be given additional supplies, independently purchases his break time snack and has even developed a friendship with a co-worker, who he helps by opening her drink as she is unable to do so herself.
When Hiram began packaging drug test kits, he could only label 1,000 bags during this work shift. Now he can label 2,500!
“It feels good.”
This is Hiram’s simple yet poignant response when asked why he likes his job. When questioned about what he does with his paycheck, he quietly talks about going out to dinner on Friday nights… Chinese food… and egg noodles.
To meet the people who earn a paycheck, because someone looked past their disability, is inspiring.
The fulfillment in hearing their stories, the trials they overcame and the reality of their day-to-day hurdles reminds us that we are all the same; hoping that someone will give us a chance to prove we are worth the words “you’re hired”.
After reading this article, may you always look at the October scenery through a new lens. May the picturesque fall foliage and the beauty of the collage of colors forevermore remind you of the joy that is felt when someone gave you the opportunity to work.
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