Letters to the Editor

Hiring people with disabilities is a smart decision

Jason Silverman graduated high school in 1995. Twenty years later, his hope of finding a job that shows off his skills and ability has not wavered. Despite businesses and other people not offering him a chance at independence, he keeps the candle burning with the flame of faith.

Silverman lives in the Conway area and loves animals. He has a friendly feline who keeps him company and enjoys playing games and writing stories. The reason Silverman has a hard time finding a job is because of his intellectual disability, which employers may wrongly see as a barrier.

The truth is, Silverman is as capable of holding down a job as you or I. The only difference is finding a business that realizes the value of hiring someone like Silverman.

Hiring a qualified person who happens to have an intellectual or developmental disability (I/DD) brings an array of benefits to the workplace. People with I/DD want to work and because they want to work, they are more willing to stay with the company long term and have more of a positive attitude.

Businesses that employ people with disabilities turn social issues into business opportunities, according to Think Beyond the Label, a national campaign managed by Health & Disability Advocates. These opportunities translate into lower costs, higher revenues and increased profits. Productivity is increased when an employer hires people for the long haul thus decreasing extra hiring and training costs.

When an employer hires someone with I/DD through a specialized staffing agency like The Arc of the Midlands, they get a two-for-one deal. Essentially, the business hires the individual while receiving the support from a supported employment coach who works with the person on the job to ensure they are comfortably settled into their new place of employment. The job coach slowly fades away allowing the employee to work independently without supports. The relationship doesn’t end, as the employee and job coach continue to stay in touch.

Silverman has been actively seeking employment with his job coach but he refuses to be delayed by lack of affirmation. He realizes his disability and that he has to find innovative ways to remember and learn concepts.

In his own words, Silverman writes: “I’ve been out of a job for several years now and still don’t have a job. But I am going out there with my job coach and getting my feet wet and doing resumes and everything that is involved in trying to get a job. I guess for someone who doesn’t have a disability has it easy for them to get a job and they won’t get discriminated since they don’t have a disability but when it comes to someone who has a disability like me, it makes you wonder why or what [they’re] thinking of not hiring someone with a disability.”

Innovation is a key to any business’ success. Hiring a person with a lifelong disability brings a unique perspective and understanding to your workplace resulting in enhanced products and services. According to Think Beyond the Label, employees with disabilities help build your business and can lead your company into the future.

Silverman is determined to get a job and is maintaining a positive attitude. He writes: “I’m not going to give up on what I’m doing when it comes to looking for a job. I’m looking forward into getting a job that I like and am good at but that’s all being done with a little help (from my job coach). Don’t be afraid to ask for help every now and then. I’m sure that person can help you in any way possible to reach your goal. …

“Always think positive and one day your goal will be achieved. I guess if you asked me what (I) would tell someone with a disability who’s looking for a job, that you can’t give up. Always be positive and one will eventually come your way.”

Hiring people with I/DD makes sense and is just an overall good business decision. Increase your return on investments, think creatively and remove the barrier of discrimination that has been wrongly built against people with lifelong disabilities.

Are you an employer willing to Think Beyond the Label? If so, contact The Arc of the Midlands’ supported employment specialists at employment@arcmidlands.org or 803-693-5746.

The writer is a project manager with The Arc of the Midlands, which serves all of South Carolina. Visit www.arcmidlands.org or contact thearc@arcmidlands.org.