Welcoming workers with disabilities

Employers are increasingly reaching out to people with disabilities when it comes to looking for new workers.

A program, which has been in operation since 1991, places young adults with disabilities into employment opportunities, and is called Supported Community Employment. It is offered, along with many other disability programs, by New Visions of Albany, a branch of the Arc. Its purpose is to place individuals with developmental disabilities in the workplace of participating employers, allowing them to gain experience and make money.

According to New Visions' Executive Director Andrew McKenzie, it gives people hope when they might have thought they could never work in the communities in which they live.

These people, with just a dose of support, can become contributing, meaningful people in everyday life, McKenzie said.

The support McKenzie spoke of is part of a package deal that employers receive when they decide to hire an employee from New Visions. As part of the program, all training associated with the job the individual is to perform is completed by New Vision. In addition, New Visions offers the employee on-the-job coaching services, career counseling, job development and ongoing support.

As a result, the employer gets an employee who is completely committed to their job, and feels comfortable completing all tasks that an employee without a disability would be handling.

"Back in the '40s and '50s, the idea was that these people couldn't find work," said McKenzie. "Now, everybody's surpassed [society's] expectations."

The program itself is only for individuals who have an overall desire to work in the community, and are willing to work with New Visions, and the employer, to ensure their success at their job. Transitioning into the workplace, New Visions also offers employers their own support in working with an individual with a disability.

Over the years, several employers have gained interest in the program, and have asked New Visions to participate, and be among others in the Capital District who looks to New Visions first for new employees.

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