You might hear him whisk through the door or get a quick glance, but the first thing Bryan wants to do when he gets to work is say “Hi” to Drue Ray. When asked why that is, he replied, “Because she’s the boss!”
Bryan works at SimplyHome as part of a vocational program through The Arc of North Carolina. Drue Ray, Founder and Director of Human Resources at SimplyHome, was introduced to Bryan by The Arc of NC almost three years ago.
After greeting his boss, Bryan vacuums, takes out the recycling and trash, and cleans the restrooms. When he’s finished, he’ll spend a few minutes going to each employee’s office telling them about his day.
The North Carolina Council on Developmental Disabilities states that close to 2 percent of the population in North Carolina lives with a developmental disability, and only 20 percent of individuals with developmental disabilities in the U.S. are employed.
For some employers, it might seem like there are too many barriers to hiring someone with a disability, such as concerns of the employee not being able to work, having transportation issues and liability. But Drue sees it very accurately: Hiring someone with a disability is just like hiring any other employee.
“Every employee brings their personal ‘baggage’ when they accept a job. Bryan’s ‘baggage,’ while obvious in some ways, isn’t more challenging than any other employee. The difference is his challenges can present themselves more often and requires us all to be more intentional in our interactions with him. But, Bryan has a team that assists us when we need to problem solve ways for him to succeed,” said Drue.
Until very recently, Bryan had a “job coach” shadowing him with his work. The role of a job coach is to assist the employee to learn the job tasks as specified by the employer, to assist in interpersonal skills and good habit development, and to help design the work experience for the employee (how to get to and from work, how to use breaks and mealtimes appropriately, how to dress, how to ask questions of co-workers, etc).
Bryan’s job coach now drops him off at his job, rather than shadowing him, allowing him to work independently and further grow into his role.
“Bryan has gained confidence and, with the help of his team and grandparents, he set goals and has achieved those goals. I would like to think the interpersonal skills he has learned working at SimplyHome empowers him in his other job at Erwin High School and in the community,” said Drue.
Of course, Bryan working with SimplyHome isn’t only benefitting him; it’s helping everyone within the company.
“Bryan is our weekly reminder and connection to those persons we strive to support. His differences do not prevent him from doing really good work but, they do impact our interactions, force us to slow down and to pay attention. Bryan reconnects us with our core values and our humanness!” said Drue.
Helping to facilitate Bryan’s employment three years ago was Kari Kopp, who at the time was Supports Manager with The Arc of NC. Kari worked with SimplyHome to ensure it was a seamless transition for both parties.
“This job gives him the opportunity to use some of his natural skills and talents (physical work, being thorough, recycling, etc.), has given him an opportunity to give back to his community (being a taxpayer), expose SimplyHome staff and customers to the reality of someone with a disability being a very valued employee, and to know that he is appreciated as part of a team,” said Kari.
And being a valued part of the team for all employees means celebrating, specifically Bryan’s upcoming birthday. Bryan’s birthday choice for lunch?
What are some resources for your employer to hire someone with a disability? Kari suggests the following sites.
The Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) provides the following programs to help employers find qualified applicants with disabilities: http://www.dol.gov/odep/faqs/employers.htm
The Employer Assistance and Resource Network (EARN) is a free, nationwide service that provides resources to help employers hire and retain people with disabilities: http://askearn.org/
The Workforce Recruitment Program for College Students with Disabilities is a free, nationwide database of pre-screened, qualified postsecondary students and recent college graduates with disabilities who are available for permanent and temporary positions: http://www.dol.gov/odep/wrp/
Recruiting and Hiring Practices provides links to information on how to find qualified applicants with disabilities and comply with laws protecting people with disabilities in the workplace: http://askearn.org/refdesk/Recruitment
Work Opportunity Tax Credit Program provides a tax credit for employers who hire certain targeted low-income groups, including applicants who are vocational rehabilitation referrals: http://www.dol.gov/odep/documents/WOTC-incentive.pdf
The NCBLN (North Carolina Business Leadership Network) is a business-to-business group whose mission is as follows: “As a business to business network, the North Carolina Business Leadership Network (NCBLN) will support the business community with information and resources to: source, hire and promote people with disabilities; to do business with organizations owned and operated by people with disabilities; and to market their products and services in an accessible manner to people with disabilities, across the State of North Carolina.” Their website is: http://www.ncbln.org/
SimplyHome’s mission is to provide safe, affordable and dignified solutions for independent living. SimplyHome is known for its highly customizable systems that are tailored to meet each customer’s specific needs.
The Arc of North Carolina is committed to securing for all people with intellectual and developmental disabilities the opportunity to choose and realize their goals of where and how they learn, live, work, and play. The Arc of North Carolina is an affiliated chapter of The Arc of the United States.