We Hire Happy People: Meet Bryan

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!”

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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?

“Chicken nuggets!”

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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

About SimplyHome

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.

About The Arc of NC

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.

FAQ: SimplyHome Personal Emergency Response System

The SimplyHome Personal Emergency Response System is our entry level system that uses a phone line or cellular connection to activate a notification to our trained responder call center, should you have a need. We send our PERS to you already programmed, along with a panic button, which can be worn as a watch or lanyard. When assistance is needed, the panic button or base unit button can be pushed to request help. The two-way speaker on the base unit allows for communication with care staff.

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Who responds to my emergency signals?

The call center is staffed 24/7 to receive calls. They alert anyone you have listed as a responder. Emergency services will be contacted if the call center cannot reach any of your contacts or if emergency services are requested immediately.

The pendant is wirelessly connected to the base and can be pressed at any time.

Is the pendant waterproof?

Yes. The waterproof pendant should be worn in the bathtub or shower – both areas where individuals have a high number of slips and falls.

How long does my battery last if there is a power outage?

The unit has built-in battery back up that should last at least 72 hours. When only 20% of the back up battery’s capacity remains or when a power failure lasts more than 1 hour, the system will alert the call center. When power returns, the battery will recharge. It may take up to 24 hours to complete the process.

Will my system affect my telephone?

Your system will not affect your telephone except when the unit has been activated by an alarm signal. The system will disconnect any call in progress and take control of the phone line when it is processing an emergency alarm, but will release the phone line for regular calls after your system is disconnected from the call center. This does not apply to a cellular PERS unit.

Should I wear my pendant to bed at night?

We recommend placing the pendant beside your bed where it is accessible, but where you will not rollover on it and accidentally activate the system.

Will my system work when I leave my house?

The base unit can receive signals from the pendant from a distance of up to 600 feet, open air. This can vary based on the structure of the home or interference from other devices. You can test the range of the pendant by putting your unit in “Test Mode” and pressing the pendant in and around various places at your house.

What makes the SimplyHome PERS different from other similar products? 

Our PERS units not only provide you with a 24/7 call center, but we also have a Customer Service Team available to assist you with any questions you might have regarding your device. The PERS units are also available as either a landline unit (if using a traditional analog phone line) or a cellular unit (a cell phone is not required).

Should you have further questions, please contact our Customer Service Team at 1-877-684-3581.

Transition Home: Laura and Vicki’s Story

Meet Laura and Vicki: Two best friends searching for independence.

Transition Home: Laura and Vicki

In 2014, the Charles Lea Center in Spartanburg, S.C., began a transition program that helps individuals make the move into their own homes and live independently. Both women expressed interest in having their own apartment and performing their own daily living skills.

What is a Transition Home?

Integrating technology and support services to people with disabilities to practice daily living skills necessary to live successfully in the community.

With the help of SimplyHome technology, Laura and Vicki were able to move from the transition home to their permanent residence within months, as opposed to possibly years without assistive care technology.

“They’re getting their independence they want, but I’m also knowing on my end that they’re safe,” said Shanena Robinson, the Charles Lea Center Area Leader.

So, what is some of the SimplyHome technology Laura and Vicki are employing in their home to help them live self-sufficiently?

  • A front door sensor allows Charles Lea staff to know if someone is at the door.

  • A medication dispenser alarms up to four times a day to remind both women of when to take their medicine.

  • The panic pendant enables Laura and Vicki to reach staff in the case of an emergency.

Beyond daily housekeeping, Laura and Vicki living on their own with SimplyHome customized systems has allowed them to build a bond with one another as a form of support.

“We focused on the training that they needed to live more independently and then we kept going, ” said Ms. Robinson.

By using SimplyHome designs, staff were able to foster more free time for these best friends to not only decorate together and eat meals together, but for them to make friends in their community through their neighborhood.  Rather than just being independent together, Laura and Vicki have built an independent collective.

This video demonstrates just how much Laura and Vicki have adapted and grown in their new home!