HOBART │ As part of its celebration of National Disability Employment Awareness Month, The Arc of Northwest Indiana sponsored a panel discussion Thursday at Avalon Manor about the benefits of hiring individuals with disabilities.
Featured panelists included representatives from the U.S. Department of Labor, NIPSCO, Purdue University, the Lake County clerk’s office and The Arc.
James Trpisovksy, a labor equal opportunity specialist, said statistics show that 79 percent of individuals with disabilities are not in the labor force.
“That’s an astounding number when you compare that to the 30 percent of all working age adults (who) are not in the labor force,” he said. “Most of them want to work but can’t find a job. That’s why it’s so important for companies to make contact and connections with community-based organizations and develop relationships with a placement coordinator.”
Trpisovksy said if more companies develop relationships with community-based organizations such as The Arc, they will increase their pool of applicants, resulting in more individuals with disabilities being hired.
Margo Love-Surprise, placement and support services director at The Arc, moderated the panel and said she wants to provide information to people who are “very afraid of hiring people with disabilities.”
“When there is a mandate by the government to diversify your workforce and increase the number of people you have with disabilities on your staff by a certain percentage, it’s a pretty scary thing for businesses. We’re just trying to help soften the blow and help those businesses to get some very real, very pertinent information to help themselves and help their own communities,” she said.
Marcy Hintzman is the assistant director of compliance and disability services at Purdue University. She also serves as the chairperson at ADA Indiana. Hintzman said training supervisors is key when it comes to interviewing applicants and creating their job descriptions.
“It’s to make sure when creating the description they’re not inadvertently screening out individuals,” she said. “Do you really need someone to lift 50 pounds or is it a matter of moving the 50 pounds?”
Hintzman said it’s about getting to think about process versus outcome.
“Is it important they do it in a certain way or is it the outcome that’s important?” she said.
Love-Surprise said Strack & Van Til didn’t need a mandate when it stepped up a long time ago in looking at a different segment of the population that had a lot of skills to offer and a huge motivation to become self-sufficient.