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Another Voice: We need more inclusion in the workplace

By William Schultz

On the surface, Christopher Taverna’s experience working at Dash’s Market in Clarence doesn’t look like anything out of the ordinary. Each day he’s responsible for cleaning and stocking the dairy coolers and frozen food freezers. He also works alongside his supervisors to learn the roles of other departments so he can continue to grow through the company. Off the clock, Christopher and his co-workers enjoy going to Bills games, local co-ops and even to Detroit for a car show.

It’s only when you look a little closer you see Christopher brings a unique set of abilities to the local grocery store. As a person with a mild intellectual disability, he trained for many years with a People Inc. job coach to prepare for and secure meaningful employment, which he now has so proudly found.

It’s important we recognize businesses like Dash’s that make a true effort to be inclusive. As part of National Disabilities Employment Awareness Month, Dash’s will join nine other local businesses at a luncheon to be honored for their commitment to hiring people with disabilities. It is my hope their stories of success will inspire other organizations to become more inclusive as well.

The call for action goes beyond being more open-minded. There’s a solid business case for hiring people with disabilities.

When companies hire people with disabilities, they often see costs go down, thanks to tax incentives and reduced turnover rates, while sales go up due to family, friends and associates of these individuals who purchase their goods and services – and usually over a long time period. Once people with disabilities have found a business where they can shop or get services in an accessible manner, they become repeat customers.

For almost three decades, People Inc. has helped prepare and train thousands of individuals with developmental disabilities to secure and maintain employment. We’ve seen firsthand the commitment, work ethic, loyalty and unique experiences these individuals bring to their employers and the workplace environment. The businesses we work with say employees with disabilities are accountable, focused, dependable, eager to learn, hardworking and appreciative.

But despite these reasons to hire people with disabilities, only 30 percent of people in the United States who have a disability or special need and want to work are employed. It is time for a change.

Dash’s learned by being more inclusive that it can show employees and the public that it embraces the unique set of abilities each person brings to the job. I invite organizations to see what happens when you become more inclusive. The results just might surprise you.

William Schultz is associate vice president of vocational and employment services at People Inc.

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