October celebrates National Disability Awareness Month. This years theme is “Ohio’s Recovery: Powered by Inclusion” to make sure Ohioans with disabilities have access to employment during economic recovery after the COVID-19 pandemic.
In 2020, 5,000 special needs individuals were assisted in finding employment in Ohio. So far in 2021, 593 individuals have been assisted in finding employment.
The organization Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities (ODD) hosts virtual hiring events to facilitate job interviews for those seeking employment and for employers that have available positions.
ODD also hosts webinars for individuals and employers. In October, ODD will host a webinar on Oct. 20 at 10 a.m. on its website. The webinar will focus on hiring college students and recent graduates with disabilities. It will include the benefits of partnering with ODD for candidate recruitment, disability etiquette resources and first-hand accounts from students and recent graduates.
One of the organizations that assist people with developmental disabilities is Grow INC. It assists individuals in Highland and surrounding counties. Those seeking employment should contact their service and support administrator (SSA) at their county board. A team meeting is usually held with the individual, their SSA, a representative from ODD, and a representative from Grow or another organization helping special needs individuals seek employment.
Grow INC’s mission statement is, “We cultivate success.” Success is different for each individual. It depends on where the individual is at with seeking employment and what type of employment. An individual can have problems at work or home, which can cultivate problems at work or seeking employment. An individual can outgrow their job and want to seek employment opportunities within the company they are working for or outside employment.
Grow INC assists with employment by employing a job developer and a job coach. The job developer assists in filling in gaps of the individual’s disability or their need. They will assist with applying for employment, at the interview and accepting employment. At the interview, the job developer may rephrase a question so the individual understands the question. After employment starts, the job coach will assist in learning job duties, culture, expectations and responsibilities. Job coaches with an individual until the individual is comfortable with their job and then will do periodic checks to assure success.
Ohio has an initiative for adaptive equipment, which refers to assisting the individual with disabilities to function independently at work, home or school.
Kenneth Kapaun, employment services director at Grow INC, shared two examples. The first example was of an individual who is deaf. In order for her to communicate with others, she needed a communication board. Grow INC purchased the board and taught her how to use it. It also shared with staff how to communicate with sign language. The second example is about individuals who mobilize with electric wheelchairs. These individuals were given tools to assist with reaching for objects on shelves or stocking shelves.
Kapaun also said that more individuals with disabilities are able to attend college or vocational schools because they have a representative working with individuals with disabilities. Colleges and vocational schools are also offering more online training. An example of vocational training would be an individual who wants to become a security guard receiving assistance to become a greeter at Walmart and learning what people are like while the individual is learning at school.
“There has never been a better time for those with disabilities to get a job, ”Kapaun said. “There is training for employers of what individuals with disabilities can bring to the team and there is extra support for the individual and the employer.”
Jackie Wolgamott is a stringer for The Times-Gazette.