EL DORADO, Ark. (10/15/19) The month of October recognizes many national causes but let’s not forget one that often goes overlooked, National Disability Employment Awareness.
This annual campaign educates the community about disability employment issues. Particularly, how difficult it is for people living with disabilities to be accepted in the workplace.
“We all are striving to work and become better individuals all the way around,” Business Engagement Representative at the Arkansas Rehabilitation Services, LaDonna Fusilier said. “So, we must treat everybody the way we want to be treated. Regardless of physical or hidden things going on with us.”
Larry Woods has a physical disability where many may deem him as incapable of working. He was diagnosed with Sarcoidosis when he was nine years old. Sarcoidosis is an immune disease that affects a person’s lungs and lymph nodes. It can also affect the eyes, skin, heart and other organs.
Woods said at that particular time, he was taking high doses of Prednisone, and doctors soon diagnosed him with Glaucoma. While the medicine helped his diagnosis, it worked against his Optic Nerve, and his vision began to diminish.
Since he was nine, he’s never been employed.
“I’ve never had anyone to desire to hire me and maybe because of my situation being a visually impaired person,” Woods said.
He’s applied to several positions but hasn’t had any luck with securing employment. He volunteers as a mentor to young boys, plays piano at his church and also offers piano lessons to the community. Woods knows he has the skills and talents just like anyone else.
“I’m very dependable. Trustworthy. I have great people skills and I’m an intelligent man,” Woods said. “Anything a person could ever want in an employee I would have it.”
He believes the only thing stopping him from employment is someone getting passed his visual impairment. He is completely blind in his right eye and partially blind in his left eye.
“Give people like myself an opportunity,” he said. “There’s so much technology out there for people with visual impairment.”
Woods regularly uses the computer application, Jaws. It is the most popular screen reader for anyone with vision loss. The application helps users navigate through the Internet, desktop and even helps them write word documents.
There are also other applications for cellular devices and reading books. Such apps and training is what helped Woods graduate with associate degrees at South Arkansas Community College.
“I’ve had the opportunity to have some training at the Department of Human Services in Little Rock,” he said. “It’s amazing to see them run an office and train people like myself to operate different types of equipment and computer technology to compete in present day society.”
Wood believes employers may think he is a risk but he’s capable of doing more than what anyone can imagine. He suggested employers consider purchasing the necessary equipment for their employees to succeed in a particular environment.
“The cost of securing different types of technology and accommodations might be costly for different agencies, but it would be an investment,” Wood said. “You never know if it will work until you give that person an opportunity.”
Fusilier agreed that companies should be more accommodating to individuals with disabilities. That could mean purchasing a software or giving the employee a task that they can handle.
“Accommodations are important and shouldn’t be looked against,” she said. “They have to really be considered because those are important. That individual could very well be able to perform their job but they just need that particular adjustment to just feel comfortable at work.”
Fusilier is working to build relationships with local business that will commit to hiring employees with disabilities. So far, it’s been a slow process but she said she will continue to try to build those connections.
“I’m trying to make this a proactive process rather than reactive,” Fuisilier. I would love to have those businesses on board where I can make a phone call or see a job posting and connect our client with that employer.”
The Arkansas Rehabilitation Services provides various types of support to individuals with disabilities including resume writing and interview preparation. They also visit businesses to asses their facility on how they can improve their space to meet the needs of an employee with a disability.
One thing people with disabilities would like the world to know is that they are real people who have needs like everyone else.
“Just because a person has a limited doesn’t mean a person is totally limited. They have so many other things they can bring to the table that they can offer that would be quite beneficial to our society. Don’t look at the disability. Look at what this person can contribute and give them a chance.”
For more information about the Arkansas Rehabilitation Services, call 870-862-5451.