When Companies Hire People With Disabilities, Everyone Benefits
Throughout the Hudson Valley, many companies recognize the value in hiring people with disabilities. Last October, twenty-five of these organizations were honored at a National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) event. It was at this event that two prominent local companies decided to partner together to continue their mission of supporting employment and opportunity for people of all abilities.
Hannaford Supermarkets’ Pawling, NY location was nominated by Dutchess ARC as an equal opportunity partner for its commitment to recruiting, hiring and promoting individuals with disabilities. With Hannaford’s commitment to not only equal opportunity employment but also to its Close to Home program which works to stock locally sourced products, it seemed like a natural fit to partner with another company that shares the same set of civic-minded values.
Good Reasons is a Hudson Valley-based company that employs an integrated work force to produce all natural, human grade dog treats. Although the company officially launched in 2014, its founder, Vicki Sylvester, Ph. D., has a thirty-year long history of fierce advocacy for people with disabilities. Sylvester is the CEO of Community Based Services (CBS), an organization that provides individualized care to disabled people throughout the Hudson Valley, including training and seeking out employment opportunities.
Sylvester believes that an inclusive work place benefits not only the employee, but the workforce and community at large as well. In her experience, workers with disabilities tend to be appreciative of the opportunity to work. Many companies that hire workers with disabilities find that their new employees are motivated to perform well and thus more enthusiastic and productive. Sylvester believes that as long as the workplace is flexible, it is no different than hiring any body else.
“All new employees, regardless of ability, come with their own set of challenges and needs. It really is no different than hiring anyone else,” says Sylvester. “We try to focus on what they can do instead of what they can’t do.”
The production crew at Good Reasons is about to see an increase in activity – the Hannaford store located in Pawling, NY just placed their first order for a display of Good Reasons’ dog treats and if demand continues to rise, the production crew at Good Reasons is about to get very busy, and hopefully larger! Jon B., one of Good Reasons’ workers, certainly doesn’t mind. As he playfully jokes, “[my job] keeps me out of trouble!”
“Let’s not call our workers individuals with developmental disabilities let’s just call them ‘people,’ says Sylvester. “Like the rest of us people, our employees want a job to earn money, to achieve a sense of self-worth and to meet new challenges and new people.” Thanks to civic-minded companies such as Hannaford and Good Reasons, some of these individuals now have that opportunity.