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Why you should hire a person with disabilities

Sometimes the right person for the job isn’t who you expected.


You see, we often look for the kind of skills that look good on a resume – organized, strategic, tech-savvy, creative – but sometimes a less obvious partnership leads to a special kind of magic.


Allow us to explain.

One of our recent projects required a significant amount of repetitive hand work – placing an adhesive magnet on the back of literally thousands of printed items. It was a part of the project that we typically handle ourselves, but our production schedule was already full.


To meet our client’s tight schedule, we needed a creative solution. But this wasn’t an incidental task; it needed to be done accurately and within a specified period of time. We had to have help from someone reliable.


But, wow, kind of boring, right? Peel, stick, stack, repeat.


And then we had an idea. Actually, it was a brilliant idea; one that helped us and thrilled some local students who are often overlooked because of their disabilities.


Finding the right fit


An initial meeting with the transition coaches who work with kids with disabilities at a local high school confirmed that this project might be ideal. It could solve our needs and also boost the confidence of one or more of these students by tapping into a specific skillset that isn’t often praised in the corporate world. Unfortunately, people with disabilities are marginalized in ways the rest of us can’t imagine. All they want is a chance – and we were thrilled to have an ideal opportunity to give them that.


But first, we had to make sure that our ask was doable. Would these students have the dexterity, focus and interest needed to complete the same task again and again and again? A trial run would let us know.


After describing the job and showing the class what was expected, we turned over a stack of materials to each student. The transition coaches had a pretty good idea of who they thought would enjoy the job and stay on-task for a reasonable period of time.


Surprise – it was a boy no one expected.


Most days, he struggles in the classroom, unable to stay quiet or seated for much time at all. Surely, this magnet thing wouldn’t keep him engaged. And yet it did. In fact, it seemed to align perfectly with his skills, and he was genuinely happy to participate in something that gave him purpose.


So many possibilities


Thanks to this great class and their transition coaches, our project was completed and delivered exactly as expected. Best of all, this wasn’t a ‘pretend’ task. It was a real-world work opportunity that gave these students a chance to sample a job they might enjoy doing in the future. There was even a field trip to our print facility after the job was complete so everyone could see where the materials they had used were produced. During their visit, we shut down our regular operations and ran the printers and routers to produce some large-scale coloring sheets and special nutcrackers that the students could take home for the holidays. A tour of our distribution area and chances to sit in our delivery van and box truck rounded out their day and provided a peek into what it might be like to work in a light manufacturing facility. It might not be the perfect fit for all of them, but it was a new experience for the entire group.


Now, we’re on the lookout for other job opportunities for this class, and we provided a donation to the school to fund other activities as well. In the end, each of our interactions – during training, the work itself and the field trip – were incredibly positive and validated a group of people who deserve a chance to prove their abilities to the community.


We’re not alone in this discovery either. In ICYMI: Finding Great Employees in Unexpected Places, you can read more about the experiences of Quantum Group in Chicago. They’ve been recruiting employees – most of whom work in their fulfillment center – through the Shore Community Center, which works with adults with cognitive issues. As the company’s CEO, Cheryl Kahanec, explains, “These employees are awesome. They are dedicated. Their cadence is perfect…Plus, they are so kind and considerate. We are fortunate to have them there.” 

Any chance your organization has projects that could also be leveraged for the greater good?

A helpful resource for getting started is Information for Employers from our own state’s Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities. They offer a wonderful training series and other resources for employers who want to make their workplace more inclusive. And if you’re a parent looking for resources or ways to help your own child find employment opportunities, the state’s website also has an Information for Individuals page.


Of course, we’re happy to share our own experience as well, so look for some future blogs about this topic and feel free to add a comment below if you’d like to learn more. And thanks for considering a new approach to recruitment – we think you’d love the results!













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