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Disability Action Center NW

Employers Recognize Untapped Talent in the Workforce

October is National Disability Employment Month. This observance has been in place since 1988 to educate the American public concerning issues related to disabilities and employment opportunities.

President Obama released a proclamation earlier in the month stating, “During National Disability Employment Awareness Month, we renew our focus on improving employment opportunities and career pathways that lead to good jobs and sound economic futures for people with disabilities.”

What makes this October even more significant is that it comes during the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The ADA has made positive differences both in the workplace as well as society in general. For example, the introduction of entrance ramps, automatic doors, and curb cuts all came as a result of the ADA.. However, during a time when the national unemployment rate is on the rise, so too is that of those with disabilities. The U.S. Department of Labor reports that the unemployment rate for people with disabilities is higher than that of the population as a whole at 16.4% & 9.5% respectively. Many job candidates have degrees and skills but still have difficulties because there is still a stigma in the workplace.

On a positive note, Alternatives, Inc. is doing its part to remove the stigma and improve the employment statistics of people with disabilities through their subsidiary, Bridges to Employment. Bridges offers services to both prospective employees looking for work as well as employers looking for talent. The journey begins with pre-employment evaluation and preparation and goes through job matching and culminates in on-going support once a match is made. They also strive to educate employers to increase understanding of hiring people disabilities.

“We have helped hundreds of people with barriers to employment reach their personal and professional goals as a result of our services. After all, meaningful and gainful work is vital for so many of us. At the same time, we are committed to helping companies large and small satisfy their business needs,” says Glori Bine-Callagy, Director of Bridges to Employment.

A new venture to create more awareness of Bridges to Employment’s mission is a retail clothing store that will sell new and used clothing and jewelry, that will see its grand opening by the year’s end. The store, which will be called “It’s all good” will be located on Main Street, in the heart of downtown Somerville. This venture is made possible through a SEED grant from the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services and will allow those with disabilities to prepare for the workforce through job sampling and training.

This milestone month also comes one year after Alternatives, Inc. launched The Bridges to Employment Career Development Center. The Center provides vocational assessment, job preparation and help with finding appropriate employment opportunities that match the skills and abilities of Central Jersey residents with varying degrees of hearing loss. The Center also houses one of the five Demonstration Centers in the state for the Division of Deaf and Hard of Hearing (DDHH) where people with hearing loss can learn about the variety of assistive technology options available to them.

Services through the CDC are available to residents of Somerset, Hunterdon, Middlesex, Mercer, Monmouth and Ocean Counties.

For more information about Bridges to Employment or to learn how to donate new and used merchandise to the store, please contact Glori Bine-Callagy at 908- 685-1444 ext. 225/VP: (866) 971-9542 or visit www.bridgestoemployment.com. Based in Raritan, Alternatives provides residential, employment, and support services for individuals with developmental disabilities, mental illness and other special needs. For information on Alternatives, please call 908-685-1444 or visitwww.alternativesinc.org.