Even as the national economy improves, New Yorkers with disabilities are being left behind. In fact, a new analysis published by RespectAbility, a national nonprofit organization that fights stigmas and advances opportunities for people with disabilities, shows that New York now ranks 40th in the nation for employment of people with disabilities. Even though more than 5,000 more New Yorkers with disabilities entered the workforce last year, New York is outperformed by almost 80 percent of the country.
At the Orange County Chamber of Commerce Monthly Membership Breakfast held on April 11, 2019 at West Hills Country Club, a panel of experts shared their thoughts on how companies can become more inclusive employers. “There are a lot of jobs in Orange County that are going vacant and there are a lot of very talented people that can fill them that aren’t being tapped,” shared Lynn Allen Cione, president and CEO of the Orange County Chamber of Commerce. “The goal of our Diversity Workforce Committee is to get out to businesses and get them to think differently. We need to look at each other as human beings first and to match potential for the jobs that are out there.”
Susan Eisma, Human Resources Director at LEGOLAND New York, shared that the idea of an inclusive workforce starts with Merlin’s values: We care and we do. “We are an organization that encourages people with disabilities to join and grow with Merlin,” shared Eisma. How? By 1) Making work adjustments to encourage and accommodate people with disabilities and identifying a range of accessible roles across our estate. 2) Establishing relationships with relevant external bodies in major markets. 3) Championing success stories.
LEGOLAND New York has built a strong relationship with BOCES Including Communities program. “We said, ‘Here’s the work we have. Is it work they would want to do?’ BOCES helped us figure out that this is work that they can do, that they want to do and that they feel valued for. It is work we had, and work we gave them.” Eisma continued.
“I encourage everyone in this room to reach out to the partners in this community – Access, HONOR, BOCES. There are multitudes of them. I’m not asking you to add labor or create mythical positions. I want you to work with these organizations to understand. This is what we do. This is the work that has to be done. They will help figure out how you can become a more inclusive employer,” said Eisma.
Ronald Colavito, Chief Executive Officer at Access: Supports For Living, shared, “This community has to work with Inspire, Abilities First, get out there and understand what employing people with disabilities really is. I can guarantee that if you’re not doing it already, it’s very different than what you think it is. I could talk for hours about the capabilities and skills of the workers and the longevity of their employment… We want people to know there are capable people in the workforce that can do more than what most think is possible. Come spend an hour with us. Come see what we do. See people actually doing the work.”
Mary O’Connell, Business Relation Representative, Mid-Hudson Region for ACCES-VR (Adult Career and Continuing Education Services), concluded the discussion by reminding employers that there is an enormous talent pool to meet your hiring needs. “It’s filled with qualified employees. They have the education, the training, the skills and enthusiasm to do the job that you need done. They just happen to have disabilities,” shared O’Connell. “There is a need in this tight labor market. We have the talent that you need to meet your demand.”