Ohio is helping people with disabilities find jobs
States from across the country are trying to model Ohio as it helps some of the 1.7 million Ohioans with disabilities find work.
Just before the pandemic, Gov. Mike DeWine signed an executive order making the state a disability inclusion state. What does that mean? Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities (OOD) Director Kevin Miller says one main goal is to help people with disabilities get a job.
“So many people have maybe, you know, a one sided of view of what that means — maybe someone who is in an entry level position, maybe at a grocery store, and we help a lot of people like that,” says Miller. “But we have people who have Ph.d.s who are blind or who are deaf or have a physical disability and they’re able to obtain credentials and a high-wage job.”
Miller says this begins with awareness. Ohio is committed to training every state employee in disability etiquette and awareness.
“Most people don’t want to offend individuals with disabilities but they’re afraid,” he says. “They don’t know if it is OK if I say, ‘It’s good to see you’ to someone who is blind, things like that. By the way, it is OK to do that.”
The 700 private businesses and organizations working with Ohio are well versed in disability etiquette and awareness. Miller says some of his biggest partners in Cincinnati are UC, Procter & Gamble and Kroger.
OODs College to Career Program helped Cole Schlesner. When he was 14, he suffered a traumatic brain injury. But through hard work, determination and OOD’s vocational rehabilitation counselor in college, he now works as an assistant estimator at Loveland Excavating and Paving.
Haley Marion has an intellectual disability, and anxiety issues. While still at Mason High School she began working with an OOD vocational rehabilitation counselor in August 2019.
Haley has always loved animals and was encouraged to be a part of Project SEARCH.
Project SEARCH is an intensive nine-month internship program that provides training and education, with a goal to place students with disabilities in competitive integrated employment. She now works at Red Dog Pet Resort & Spa and has taken veterinary tech classes at Sinclair College.
Miller says Ohio also hires people with disabilities in its vocational apprenticeship program for a set number of hours rotating through IT, accounting, customer service and other departments to prepare for a permanent position.
OOD is looking to start other programs. “We want to keep an open mind,” says Miller. “We also don’t want to think we have all the solutions. It’s really important that we include individuals with disabilities in these conversations.”