Vail Daily column: Breaking down barriers to employment
“When I came out of the 7/11, there was this gangster, and I’m talking a thug, not a mafia thug anyway. This dude was just leaning up against the 7/11, just looking pretty mean. He looked like someone you wouldn’t really want to talk to, so that’s what I did. I walked right up to him and said, ‘Could you open my popsicle?’ Took him right out of his comfort zone. He did it, though, and I can assure you, it’s hard to look hard when you’re opening a popsicle. That’s right, (cerebral) palsy, breaking down barriers.” —Comedian Josh Blue, season 1 winner of “Last Comic Standing.”
Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Amelia Anderson, and I am the face of the Colorado Mountain Region Division of Vocational Rehabilitation. Our agency falls under the Colorado State Department of Human Services and is established in the Office of Community Access and Independence. Our mission at the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation is to assist people with disabilities to succeed at work and to live independently. Our clients are comprised of individuals who have a wide range of disabilities ranging from mental illness, learning and cognitive disabilities to mild and moderate physical disabilities. If a condition causes a barrier to finding or retaining employment or living independently, Colorado Division of Vocational Rehabilitation may be able to help. The Division of Vocational Rehabilitation has more than 50 years of experience in helping individuals with disabilities prepare to go to work, and obtain and maintain employment. We provide quality training, support and career placement services. The Division of Vocational Rehabilitation is a trusted partner in helping job seekers who are disabled to find meaningful employment. We constantly strive to build and maintain relationships with employers so that our job seekers can compete for employment opportunities and obtain jobs that meet their needs.
For instance, did you know actor and director Tom Cruise was allegedly diagnosed with dyslexia when he was an adolescent? This reportedly caused issues for him in reading words and numbers. This learning disability is one of many different disabling conditions that can act as a barrier to finding and retaining employment. At the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation we look to address barriers like Tom’s and help our clients overcome them, resulting in finding and retaining employment and achieving an independent lifestyle.
Here at Vocational Rehab, it isn’t about giving special treatment; it’s about leveling the playing field. One in five people have a documented disability in Colorado — that’s one in five of our friends, our coworkers, our family members. It’s the largest minority group in our state, not to mention the only group that any one of us could become a member of at any time. Our current economic standing results in a multitude of challenges people across the state and country face, but for people who are disabled, the unemployment rate and a very competitive job market are even more challenging .
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We want to promote and enhance our participant’s marketability, resulting in employment. We want to spread the word to employers out there that hiring someone with a disability is a positive way to cultivate our community and that Division of Vocational Rehabilitation is here to support both employers and employees. We are striving to bridge the gap that exists.
HELPING BOSSES AND EMPLOYEES
We offer job coaching assistance to alleviate the pressure employers feel when they must spend extra hours training a new employee who may have a learning disability. We can offer training, education, accommodative technology just to name a few; all of these services are intended to help our clients feel comfortable and confident moving forward, and to pursue their ultimate employment goal. We strive to place individuals in job opportunities where there is a good match and a good fit for both employer and employee. Our individuals have the skill and the motivation to work, contribute and exceed expectations in the workforce.
So what’s an easy way to think of all of the services that the State of Colorado’s Division of Vocational Rehabilitation offer employers and clients, all at no charge? The heart of it can be thought of as this: We remove barriers to employment for persons with disabilities and their employers. Another way to think of what we do that is even shorter: We connect qualified employees with quality employers.
These only scrape the surface of the long list of services that we provide, but at the end of the day, it really is that simple of an idea: We remove barriers to employment so that the best employee can get the job, regardless of whether they have a disability or not. Sometimes big ideas come in small descriptions.
Amelia Andersonis a business outreach specialist for the Colorado Department of Human Services, Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, which assists individuals whose disabilities result in barriers to employment to succeed at work and to live independently. To reach your local Eagle County Division of Vocational Rehabilitation office, call Kathy McCahill at 970-926-3232 or visit http://www.dvrcolorado.com.