Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Working, The Great Equalizer

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be partially blind or deaf and be looking for a job? Intellectually challenged or having any one of a number of other 'disabilities' that make you different from the usual job applicant? Unable to stand up to work, or unable to sit for long periods of time usually required for a desk job? This post is to give companies who promote diversity in their workplace and supportive work environments for the differently able a shout out and to say 'thank you, you are appreciated.'

As a parent of a disabled young adult, one of the most important things you can encourage them to do is to get a job.  Work is a great equalizer.  This isn't to say that your young adult is likely to become the CEO of a Fortune 500 company (few of us have that chance).  But work, even if it is part time, gives them a great feeling of being ABLE to do what other young adults their age are doing. 

Sometimes finding a job is tricky, some employers are more equal opportunity employers than others.  I'd like to give a shout out to three companies in the Philadelphia area that are well known for being willing to train young adults to be contributing members of their workforce than some others.

Top of the list is Wawa Inc.  For those who live in the PA/NJ/DE/MD/VA area you are already probably familiar with Wawa convenience stores and gas stations (where you can usually get the lowest gas prices around!)  Their corporate headquarters is located in Chester Heights, Pennsylvania, near the community of Wawa PA. 

Wawa offers young adults the opportunity to learn on the job and their managers are well known for being helpful to young workers who need a little bit of extra help.  Combine their friendly management attitude with their willingness to work with the local school districts on job placement while students are still in high school and you find a company I'm proud to patronize. 

At any given time you'll find young adults (and older ones) doing a variety of jobs that suit their abilities.  So the next time you're thinking 'where should I stop for coffee' on the way to work, stop in your local Wawa. Support their willingness to help all the members of their community be active participants in the workplace. 

Wawa in my neighborhood recently celebrated the 45th Anniversary of their store on Burmont Road in Drexel Hill PA.  Wawa's PR coordinator, Colleen Labik said "Wawa is like being part of a family.  Our customers can go anywhere for their cup of coffee but they choose to come here because of that special bond  between the store associates and the customers." 

I was talking to some of the customers who had come to help Wawa celebrate this special occasion.  One said "The managers come and go, but there's a young lady who is always here smiling and helping me out, she's the reason I come in every day."  He pointed to her across the store, imagine my pride when I saw he was pointing to my daughter. A true proud mom moment.  But she is only one of many employees Wawa has with varying skill levels and physical disabilities.

Another employer who trains students from the VoTech to recent grads from the Special Education program at the high school is Red Lobster.  Red Lobster, part of the Darden Restaurant chain, provides seafood dining experiences even for the landlocked!  Darden Restaurants have a long history of 'being of service,' and promotoing 'diversity,' and 'respect and caring in the communities where we live and work.' This is reflected in many ways but especially in their willingness to hire those with different levels of ability.

Darden also teams up with a number of non-profit organizations that have a track record of effectively serving and representing the members of the communities where they are located.  This includes organizations assisting the disabled.  Kudos to Red Lobster and all Darden Restaurants (which include The Olive Garden, Longhorn Steakhouse, Bahama Breeze,  Season 52 and Captial Grille) for recognizing and acting on this important concept. 

Darden also supports Habitat for Humanity through furniture donations to its ReStore outlets, the American Red Cross Annual Disaster Giving Program, and local food banks in communities across the United States through our Darden Harvest food donation program, many of which benefit the disabled.

ACME Markets Inc. is another company that offers employment opportunities to the differently able.  Acme began in 1891 with the opening of a small neighborhood market in South Philadelphia that emphasized quality foods, friendly service and low prices.  Samuel Robinson and Robert Crawford, opened a small neighborhood grocery store at Second and Fernon Streets in South Philadelphia, and more than 120 years later ACME has expanded and provides jobs for people in PA/NJ/DE/and MD.
Today, ACME operates 116 stores, employing more than 13,000 associates. In addition to providing the community with a convenient and reliable place to shop, most days you walk into an ACME you'll find employees with a variety of abilities working to make ACME you choice of a place to shop.  The bagger who is partially blind, the disabled cashier, the stock person who needs a little extra help, all have a place in the ACME family.

Do you know a company that is actively helping the differently able become part of the work force?  Leave me a comment or send me an email.  We're planning on doing 'shout outs' highlighting companies that are 'differently able friendly' and their employees.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Ticket To Work Meeting

Regretfully the Ticket to Work portion of this presentation has been cancelled. 

The Everyday Lives Committee is having an informational program about the Ticket to Work on October 19, 2011 from 12 noon to 2pm. 

The informational session, Ticket to Work, Work Incentives, Planning and Assistance (WIPA) would be useful for caregivers, the disabled or anyone involved in services for the disabled.  Learn how many Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) beneficiaries can stay in control of their benefits while enriching their lives through employment. 

Speakers at this session will be: Tyra Virden, Community Work Planning & Assistance (WIPA), Disability Rights Network and Joseph Gousie, Director of Non-Traditional Career Supports and Training, Elwyn/Work Services Division.

For addiitonal information contact:  Marsha Komara 610-713-2400 x 2210 Komara@co.delaware.pa.us.  The meeting will be held at: The Delaware County Intermediate Unit, 200 Yale Avenue, Room 163, Morton PA 19070. 

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Disability in the Workplace Survey

Cornell University is conducting a survey about how people who are disabled feel about disclosing their disability to potential employers and how they are treated after they are hired.  To take their survey go to this survey link.

This is from their web site:


The American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) and the Employment & Disability Institute at Cornell University* invite you to participate in a brief (5-10 minute) survey on emerging employment issues for people with disabilities. This research will provide a foundation for policy development around:

  • Disability disclosure in the workplace
  • Leave as a reasonable accommodation
  • Job applicant screening criteria that may differentially impact people with disabilities in the hiring process.

By completing this survey you are agreeing to participate in the research. You are not likely to have any direct benefit from being in this research study. Your participation is voluntary and there is no penalty if you choose not to participate.

Your responses will be kept strictly confidential, and digital data will be stored in secure computer files. Reports based on this survey will not include any individually identifiable information.

We anticipate that participation in this survey presents no greater risk than everyday use of the Internet, however electronic communications are not necessarily secure and could be viewed by a third party." 

Do you feel like you had to hide your disability to get hired?  Do you think your disability has an impact on your ability to be hired or promoted? Tell it like it is.  If you're not actively working toward change you could be part of the problem.  Take action today to make changes for the better.

A Book To Read

The “Tail” of Rugby Jones is a book for anyone facing a challenge in their life.

What is The "Tail" of Rugby Jones? When an uncommon dog has a determined owner, and they share the belief in possibility, anything is possible.

The "Tail" of Rugby Jones is the story of a dog who had it all.  He lived on a horse farm in Pennsylvania.  He was the 'top dog' who kept all the other dogs and cats in line.  He helped his owner with the horses.  Yes, Rugby Jones lived like a Top Dog.  Then one day another dog attacked him and Rugby Jones was paralyzed, his lower back a disaster area.  His owner was advised to put him out of his misery.  She refused.  She knew Rugby Jones had the courage and the strength of will to overcome the obstacles in his path.  Claudia just knew she and Rugby would find a way to get Rugby Jones walking again. 

The book is written in Rugby's cocky six year old voice.  The story is one whose message will resonate with adults and children alike. What does this book reinforce?

- hope in a hopeless circumstance
- courage to be different in a “let’s be alike” world
- determination to take the “dis” out of disability
- unexpected trust that comes from unconditional love

Rugby teaches us all that life is what we make it.  It's about what you can do, not about disability.  He shows readers by example how to live life to the fullest and never give up.  A great message.  A great book.  Available on Amazon.com or your local bookstore.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Autism Research Law Signed by Obama

On September 30th President Obama signed the Autism Law that provides millions of dollars for autism research.  This will support autism research for the next three years.  The law called the Combating Autism Reauthorization Act of 2011 provides over $230 million to support autism related research.  This preserves the spending levels of the original 2006 law that was about to expire.

According to supporters this will support research that builds on prior autism-related research that includes improved screening methods and identifying autism susceptibility genes.  Prior to 2006 the government devoted far less spending to autism research.

According to statistics 1 in 110 American children have a disorder on the autism spectrum.  Organizations supporting the law include: the American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Association of State Directors of Special Education, the Autism Society, and Autism Speaks.  The Autistic Self Advocacy Network and other groups opposed it because of it's focus almost solely on children with only a small amount of resources designated for helping other individuals diagnosed with autism.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Work and the Disabled -- They Become the Work-Able

(video from Daily Local News)

Project SEARCH, a program that teaches job skills to the disabled and also helps them get jobs, run in cooperation with Bryn Mawr Rehab Hospital, has graduated their first class this year.  Project Search is a countrywide program but Bryn Mawr Rehab is one of only two locations to offer the program for adults.

Project SEARCH at Bryn Mawr Rehab is currently underwritten mostly by philanthropic donations but it's success should attract aid from other funding sources.  Currently they receive funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, or ARRA.

The graduates from Project Search at Bryn Mawr Rehabilitation not only have skills they often have JOBS!  Think what your life would be without the satisfaction your job brings to you.  Project SEARCH is teaching people to reach out and help themselves. It's making them ABLE. 

One of the biggest difficulties for the disabled is finding a full time job in the community they live in.  If they can be successfully integrated into the communities they live in they become not only happier and have a personal feeling of success but they may need fewer services that are underwritten by the state and federal government.  I'd rather see my tax dollars at work training people to WORK, than paying them to stay home. 

Interns may train for a variety of positions ranging from patient services, clerical positions, food service, environmental services, materials management, information services, support services and others.  Any classroom education takes place at Bryn Mawr Rehab, while the three internships they take part in may take place at Bryn Mawr Rehab or other Main Line Health locations. 

Students interested in this program should contact Bryn Mawr Rehab or their local office of Vocational Rehabilitation.  Applications previously were accepted in April so get a head start and make inquiries now to see if this program would help you.