Disabled Workers Find Job Success - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Disabled Workers Find Job Success

Jay O'Neill Jay O'Neill
From the film "Music Within" From the film "Music Within"

Burlington, Vermont - February 4, 2008

Some 3,000 shoppers swing into City Market each day, and that keeps Jay O'Neill busy bagging. "It was really a pride thing," he says.

That pride thing was finding good part-time work. O'Neill suffered a stroke several years back, robbing him of his ease of speech and mobility. O'Neill explains, "It's good because if you get out there, you realize you're not as disabled as you think."

A group called VABIR, the Vermont Association of Business, Industry and Rehabilitation, helped him land his grocery gig. City Market regularly hires disabled workers.

City Market's Meredith O'Neill says, "When we are able to offer opportunities to people like Jay, it's a win-win." Meredith O'Neill is Jay O'Neill's HR director, but they're not related.

Meredith O'Neill adds, "It's very nice for us to be able to get mature people who are committed to the job here."

Vermont employers grappling with shifting demographics, an aging population made worse by an exodus of young people, have turned to disabled workers to fill gaps in recent years. They've found success from the service industry to high tech positions.

The state sees disabled Vermonters as an excellent resource, a way to fill jobs across the workforce. That message spread Monday with help from the movies.

VABIR hosted a screening of the film Music Within. It's about an advocate key to the creation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The group invited employers, telling them one out of ten Vermonters has a disability that makes it harder for them to work, but that there's still a lot they can do.

VABIR executive director Christine McCarthy explains, "We're trying to get the message out to employers not to look at people's disabilities, but to their abilities. They have a lot to offer in the workplace."

Jay O'Neill backs that up. He's glad to feel part of the co-op family, and glad he has a good job in the bag.

O'Neill says, "I guess you don't really know how good you are 'til you go do it."

Vermont's Division of Vocational Rehabilitation says it has placed more than 5,000 disabled workers in jobs over the past several years, many of them with so-called "invisible" disorders like chronic pain, learning disorders, or mental illness.

Jack Thurston - WCAX News

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