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Businesses urged to hire developmentally disabled

Local employment agencies for developmentally disabled people every year send hundreds of invitations to business owners for an event that highlights the benefits of hiring their clients. Only dozens of employers show up.

Those agencies would like to change that.

In preparation for the third-annual Hire Ability Day, several organizations are asking business owners to consider hiring developmentally disabled people.

“Our main focus is raising the awareness of employers that they’ve got an untapped source of workers to be aware of,” said Greg Falk, executive director of the Arc of Spokane, one of several agencies involved in organizing the event.

Nationwide, 70 percent of developmentally disabled people are unemployed, he said.

Hiring those workers isn’t charity, he said, it’s good business. Disabled people can find fulfillment when others find boredom, especially when it comes to repetitive tasks, he said.

Many companies who have hired developmentally disabled employees report that those employees are highly productive and rarely call in sick, he said.

“Every business has its simpler tasks that can be broken out from the more complex task,” he said.

In a practice called “job carving,” employers can increase their productivity by finding jobs that fit for developmentally disabled workers, freeing other laborers for more complex tasks. More businesses are “job carving,” Falk said.

“People have been doing it for years, but not as systematically as they’re beginning to do it,” he said.

Sometimes jobs are created by surveying current employees and asking what parts of their jobs they find repetitive.

The Hire Ability Day luncheon, to be held Oct. 18 at the Davenport Hotel’s Grand Pennington Ballroom, costs about $20,000. That money is raised by participating agencies, allowing them to offer the lunch and speaker for free to employers.

Philip Kosak, president of Carolina Fine Snacks in Greensboro, N.C., will speak at this year’s event. About half of his company’s work force, from production-line workers to operators of high-tech equipment, are people with disabilities, according the Hire Ability Day Web site.

On the morning of the luncheon, developmentally disabled people will meet with potential employers and tour workplaces. Six people were hired after last year’s event.


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