has changed even his perspective.
“When you hear about somebody has a disability you automatically think about what they can’t do,” explained Scott. “Just like any person, people with disabilities run the spectrum as to ability, talent and preferences. I now begin by thinking, ‘What can they do’.”
“Employers underestimate these folks,” says Stacey Kyle, Program Specialist with AHEDD for 22 years. “These are your dads or uncles or sisters or wives; They have skills and abilities and many times there isn’t really much accommodation that needs to be done.
That accommodation can be anything from an altered work schedule to a temporary job coach. AHEDD also provides many services directly for employers such as assistance with the recruitment and screening of suitable applicants, job accommodations, financial incentives, assistance at the job site to help employers who may not have the experience to train individuals with disabilities, and training for employees who are non disabled on such topics as The Americans with Disabilities Act, Disability Awareness and Sensitivity, and other related topics.
“Exposure is really the biggest piece of educating others,” added Stacy. “We encourage clients to see what is possible before being sidelined in the community -set your expectations and dreams high and see what can happen.”
To do that, however, requires partnerships –trusted partners in the community to help spread that message that people may need to hear before embarking on the journey of employment.
Scott relates he was working at the Autozone Distribution Center in Hazleton when he got to know Steve Poncelet, an Employment Specialist with AHEDD. As he learned more about the company, Scott realized that the organization had the opportunity to make an incredible impact on the Mountaintop community.
“There is a real need for it,” remarks Scott about AHEDD. “They’re about really sitting down with a person and getting to know them and I think that would change everybody’s perspective on people with disabilities and what that means. Many people have never heard of AHEDD and what we are doing and I think they should.”
The individuals AHEDD serves include youth in transition from school-to-work and adults who are looking for employment in the community. These folks can have intellectual or physical disabilities that may affect their ability to enter the workforce. Many times, unfortunately, these individuals are completely overlooked even if they require minimal accommodations to complete the tasks associated with the job.
“We are not a charity –we simply want employers to consider AHEDD as just another place to post that job,” explained Stacey. “Consider casting your net a little wider to fill your business needs and mirror the community in which you have your business.”
AHEDD has placed individuals into jobs that range anywhere from Account Executive to Veterinary Assistant to Parking Attendant and follows the progress of each client for one year after they become employed to ensure they have the support necessary to be successful and that the individual is satisfied with their job and meeting the expectations of the employer.
Stacey explains that that not only is hiring someone with a disability a benefit to that person and the community, but it also makes financial sense. There are several other benefits to working with AHEDD, including assistance for complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act and accessing a virtually untapped pool of potential employees and potential tax credits.
“How is each company best servicing its own customer base right now?” mused Stacey. “Your clients encompass people who have disabilities, and being involved with this agency can help you understand how to better serve those clients, as well as reach a more diverse population of people.”
Stacey also points out that, not only are there people currently working whose disability is simply not visible, but as the work force ages and people cannot afford to retire, people with a range of disabilities will become more prominent in the workforce. Employers who already have an openness and plan for that fact will fare much better in the near future.
“Many of us will be touched by a disability at some point in our lifetime,” remarked Stacey. “Everyone wants to be as useful as possible, and the less uncomfortable and more aware we are, the better experience everyone will have.”
“We would love people to get involved with us and give people a chance” concluded Scott. “There are many networking connections in Mountaintop and if someone can reach out to us, we would be appreciative.”
For information on how to get involved with AHEDD, visit their website at http://www.ahedd.org