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National Disability Employment Awareness Month: Celebrating 75 Years of “Increased Access and Opportunity”

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October 2020 marks the 75th year of the observance of National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) and also the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This momentous ruling has provided adults with disabilities with an increase in opportunities in the workplace for 30 years. 

To celebrate the milestone, we are honoring our adult participants who are employed, were employed, or currently seeking employment. 

Ben

Ben, a resident in one of our CILA homes is currently employed at Jewel-Osco, a Chicago grocery store. He applied, interviewed, and landed the job independently in 2019.

“I love working with my coworkers at Jewel and interacting with customers,” says Ben, who bags groceries and helps with cleaning at the food chain. 

Working at Jewel has helped Ben learn how to stay positive and helped him make new friends if he’s “having a hard time.” And with Ben’s radiant smile and enthusiasm, it’s easy to understand how and why his coworkers gravitate toward him and enjoy his friendship!

Mark

Mark also lives in one of our CILA homes and attends the Coleridge Adult Day Program. Since 1995, Mark has worked in the kitchen of Lawry’s Prime Rib restaurant washing dishes. He would navigate public transportation every Saturday by himself on Bus 56, and enjoyed his coworkers and making money. 

The restaurant is closing at the end of 2020, due to hardships endured during the pandemic; however, that isn’t dampening Mark’s spirits, as he is excitedly searching for a new job with the help of Esperanza’s knowledgeable Qualified Individual Disability Professionals (QIDP), who will assist Mark in researching jobs and preparing for interviews. 

Our QIDP and Mark will work with the Department of Rehabilitation Services (DRS) to further assist in the employment process. DRS provides job coaching and funding; our participants who work with DRS meet with them quarterly via phone conference to ensure our participants have the appropriate support and services to attain their employment goals. 

“Esperanza teaches me how to handle money and be on time. I am always on time,” says Mark, who is hoping to find another job in the food industry; his goal is to own a bakery, so he can teach kids how to cook and bake. “I still want to work so I can make millions of dollars and buy a bakery and also a brick bungalow.”

Regina

Another ambitious and energetic, Esperanza resident and participant, Regina, is eager to find work in the city. 

“I’m excited about working in a kitchen because I cook at home and I really like cooking,” says Regina, who is searching for her first job. “I like cooking chicken, pork chops, and mac and cheese.” 

Regina, who will also work closely with our QIDP and DRS, says, “They help me with the job application and the interview!”

Our adult participants have access to various job opportunities in the city because of ADA, and we are excited to celebrate and honor them, along with the wonderful, inclusive employers this month and year-round! 

“We are so grateful to our community who seeks opportunities to include adults with disabilities in their workplace,” says Jen Bennett, Director of Programs. “But even more so, we are proud of the remarkable work our participants have achieved by searching for employment. Through their employment and journey to find work, they have learned independence, financial awareness, and socialization skills. The progress and growth they’ve shown in their career path are incredible!”

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