Jacky Cohen of College Living Experience
(CLE), Diane Healy of Cornerstone Montgomery
, and Nick Heynen of The Treatment and Learning Centers
(TLC) gave a panel presentation about the benefits of hiring people with disabilities at Rockville Chamber of Commerce's July 2014 Good Morning Rockville event at Best Western Hotel
. The event was attended by Rockville Mayor Bridget Newton, several local employers served by CLE, TLC and Cornerstone, employees who have been hired through these programs, and Chamber members and guests.
CLE is involved in providing tutoring and helping college students with disabilities navigate their college experience. Jacky works with small groups and focuses on their career development. Diane Healy works with Cornerstone Montgomery's Back to Work program, which matches job seekers with appropriate jobs. Nick Heynen introduced us to TLC's program, originally founded in 1950 to help place people recovering from polio, and now with 200 employees serving over 2,000 people.
Among the reasons cited by the panelists for businesses to consider hiring people with disabilities when looking for new hires are:
- Higher retention rates: With a strong desire to work and prove themselves, companies report that employees with disabilities are more dedicated to the job and remain longer than others. A recent study by Walgreens backs up that finding.
- Prescreened applicants: Organizations that help place workers with disabilities find out what skills their workers are strongest in, and work with employers to match these skills to needed positions.
- Tax credits: Tax credit is available if certain criteria are met for companies hiring workers with disabilities during the first 2 years of employment - up to 30% of wages during the first year, and 20% the second.
- Job coaching included: New hires through Cornerstone Montgomery come with a job coach, who can be as involved or in the background as the hiring company wishes. The job coach helps both employee and employer work out arrangements that will allow the employee to be more successful in the position.
- Favorable public opinion: When polled, 90% of consumers report being more favorably disposed towards businesses who hire workers with disabilities.
Jacky and Diane both noted some things businesses can do to improve the likelihood that a person with a disability will be successful (which actually apply to making all of our work experience better), such as providing a clear workspace, giving clear and specific directions, and when needed, providing a relevant photo or diagram to remind workers of how to carry out a particular task.