Hiring Individuals with Disabilities Benefits Everyone

Written by Dr. Kelly Kapitz

In 1945, Congress designated October as National Disability Employment Awareness Month. The annual recognition draws attention to employment barriers that still need to be addressed. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate in Marathon County is at 2.8%, below the state average of 3.1%. This is even better than that national average of 3.7%.  While this may be good news for the county, employers are struggling to recruit and retain workers for their businesses. An often overlooked workforce pool are individuals with disabilities. Recent data  suggests that 7.9% of individuals living in Marathon County under the age of 65 have some type of disability.

Numerous resources are available to support employers in seeking and hiring this under utilized pool of employees. Hiring disabled individuals can help businesses meet their talent needs while strengthening their competitive edge. By hiring individuals with disabilities, employers can:

  • Expand their pool of talent
  • Create a culture of diversity
  • Meet their workforce needs
  • Foster creative business solutions
  • Generate goodwill among customers
The Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion (EARN), a program funded by the U.S. Department of Labor, provides resources such as the Inclusion@Work Framework pictured above to assist employers on its website. (Source: askearn.org)

The U.S. Small Business Administration provides many resources to help businesses reach this employee pool. Some of these resources include:

  • Guidance for writing an inclusive job posting
  • Learning the guidelines for interviewers
  • Understanding how to provide reasonable accommodations
  • Strategies for partnering with regional Workforce Development and Disability Support Agencies
  • Applying for financial incentives
The Aging & Disability Resource Center of Central Wisconsin serves the counties of Langlade, Lincoln, Marathon, and Wood. For more information on this organization, visit www.adrc-cw.org.

Regional Resource: Aging and Disability Resource Center of Central Wisconsin (ADRC-CW)

A regional agency that supports individuals with disabilities is the Aging and Disability Resource Center of Central Wisconsin (ADRC-CW). Through collaborations and partnerships, the Aging and Disability Resource Center promotes choice and independence through personalized education, advocacy, and access to services that prevent, delay, and lessen the impacts of aging and disabilities in the lives of adults. Through these partnerships, the agency is able to connect individuals to business leading to gainful employment.

The Occupational Development Center (ODC) provides services in 13 Wisconsin counties. For more information about this organization, visit www.odcinc.com.

Regional Resource: Occupational Development Center (ODC)

A regional organization that supports training and job development in Marathon County is the Occupational Development Center (ODC). The mission of ODC is to ensure that the individuals they serve have the optimal employment support suited to their individual pursuits and skills sets. They achieve this by matching individuals skills and talents to businesses. When necessary, ODC also provides job coaching and training onsite. “This combination of matching the employee to the business is a win-win,” says Sara Schueller, Transition Services Developer for ODC.  “Part of our role is to educate businesses about what our clients can provide, break down barriers and dispel myths about hiring individuals with disabilities.”  Properly matched employees often become loyal, reliable workers, helping to fill vacancies in the workplace.

Regional Resource: K-12 Schools

K-12 schools in Marathon County also support individuals and businesses in a variety of ways. Public schools are required to support students with disabilities as they plan for their post-high school life. This includes support in preparing students to move into technical or university settings, or directly into the world of work. One way this happens is through providing job experiences and coaching. Often partnering with outside agencies such as the Aging and Disability Resource Center and the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation, schools, agencies and families work together to plan and support students as they transition from high school to the adult world. Schools may also partner directly with businesses in providing job shadowing or on the job training. This helps businesses attract potential employees and students determine occupational paths.

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Given the labor market in Marathon County, it only makes sense and cents to expand hiring practices to include individuals with disabilities. It is great for the employee, the business and the economy.

Kapitz-KellyDr. Kelly Kapitz has been involved in rural education for over 30 years. She began her career as a school psychologist and later entered administration as a Director of Special Education and Pupil Services for the Marathon County Special Education Department. She received her PhD in Education Leadership and Policy Analysis from the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Her dissertation and particular area of interest is transition services to students with disabilities. She has served on several state and local taskforces related to providing high-quality educational services to rural students. Dr. Kapitz serves on the Board of Directors for the Wisconsin Council of Administrators of Special Services. She and her husband have three children and enjoy tending their apple orchard and traveling. Email Dr. Kelly Kapitz.

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