By: Heidi Dirkse-Graw, MS, CRC, LPC – President/CEO – Dirkse Counseling and Consulting, Inc.
Almost 30 years ago, I began my career as a job developer, helping people with disabilities get their foot in the door of employment. I was just 22 years old at the time and a recent college graduate. Honestly, I barely knew how to find my own job. But what I quickly realized is that I had a gift of seeing the strengths and potential in my clients and every day that I went to work, I smiled. It was a joy helping people grow in confidence, gain greater financial independence and become integrated into their workplace and communities.
What I didn’t understand at that time, was how my work as a job developer changed business in ways I didn’t expect.
I began to realize that when people with disabilities are employed in the community, not only do their lives improve, but so does the workplace. Like ripples of water that begin to disperse 360 degrees around the small rock thrown into a lake, is a workplace that embraces ability and chooses creative ways to help people with disabilities perform work!
Through the years, employers began to talk about their experiences and take pride in being a disability friendly place to work. I heard about increased teamwork, improved processes, and benefits to the bottom line. Workplaces were not only becoming more inclusive and accommodating to my clients whom they hired but also to their own employees with disabilities. I was thrilled!
I have also learned that there are sometimes challenges. Businesses know their business. They don’t always know how to hire and retain qualified applicants with disabilities. Fears and unconscious bias have, at times, closed the door on a company benefiting from the talent before them. Fortunately, many companies I have worked with reach out for support and training. These are the companies that find the benefits of becoming inclusive of people with disabilities in the workplace!
Why attend Amplify!?
Because disability inclusion matters.
It benefits business.
It benefits us all.