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Working to be #1 for People with Disabilities

Des Moines Employment Disabilities and Easter Seals Iow

August 1, 2017

List after list, year after year, category after category, Greater Des Moines (DSM) is ranked as a top place to live and raise a family. Am I proud to call DSM my home? You bet! And I’m ready to challenge DSM to be #1 in another category — employment for people with disabilities.

Easter Seals Iowa Focuses on Employment

Working is a right and responsibility for all people. At Easter Seals Iowa, we focus on employment because it leads to independence. Living with purpose allows people to live their healthiest, experiencing less physical and mental illness. When you have an income, you have choices. When you have employment and purpose, you gain confidence. In my experience, success begets success. Gain confidence in one area, and you’ll have confidence to reach your goals and dreams in another area.

For an example, check out this video to hear what work experience means to Easter Seals Iowa Client Paul and his employment goals.

Success as a Full-Time Employee

Our client Kaitlyn also comes to mind. She started working as an intern at the Downtown Mercy Hospital Starbucks. With support from Easter Seals Iowa and a supportive work environment, Kaitlyn graduated from the internship program and began working as a paid part-time employee. She was so successful that she now works full-time at the Mercy Starbucks, receiving full-time benefits! She is so confident in her skills that she approached us last month and shared she did not need any further employment support from Easter Seals Iowa. She is now working completely independently in the community, loving what she does and the opportunities full-time wages provide!

In Kaitlyn’s case, accommodations were made that allowed her to be successful, as small as creating a checklist. Don’t be afraid of accommodations — we all use them to be successful! For example, I am a terrible speller and I use the accommodation of having someone proof anything that will be publicly distributed. Yes, even this blog post!

Sometimes employers are quick to identify why someone doesn’t fit or might not be successful in a role. Instead, think about the value each person brings to the table. What skill or experience do they have that you don’t currently have? For example, one in four adults will experience a disability at some point in their lifetime; that is 25 percent of the market. A person with a disability brings that perspective to your business. Don’t miss the opportunity to make connections with 25 percent of your market.

Seventy percent of people with disabilities are under employed or unemployed. The job market is tough, with unemployment at an all-time low. Invest in a person with a disability, and chances are they will be loyal to your company.

Easy Connections

Take Easter Seals Iowa client Rob for example. For the past 17 years Rob has been working at Wells Fargo. He is very proud of the work he does each day. He knows everyone by name in the building! When he delivers the mail, he takes the opportunity to connect with each person.  His supervisors say Rob spreads happiness. He interacts with all levels of Wells Fargo team members from clerks to the Executive Management Team. He always is willing to learn new skills and takes pleasure in doing them correctly. Rob says his favorite part about working at Wells Fargo is getting to know the people.

DSM USA Businesses and Disabilities

When hiring people with disabilities and making accommodations, don’t go it alone! There are many resources to assist you. Easter Seals Iowa and other disability service providers have team members who can help. I also encourage businesses to reach out to people with disabilities to assist in identifying how typical hiring practices might be inadvertently screening out people with disabilities.

Everyone deserves the opportunity to be independent and enjoy the right to live, learn, work and play in our community.  Working together, I know we can put DSM at the top of the list as a community that recognizes the importance of employment for people with disabilities. 

The Partnership offers various resources for companies to further their inclusive hiring efforts. Learn more.

Looking for job opportunities? We can help! 

Sherri Nielsen

Sherri Nielsen is a passionate leader and advocate in the disability community. She started her career at Easterseals Iowa more than 20 years ago directly supporting clients and has served as president/CEO of the organization since 2008. Sherri is a Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) and a Certified DiSC Trainer. Visit eastersealsia.org.