From the CEO: Employment

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Patti Hayes

Some restaurants provide seating with a clear view of the activities in the kitchen and, if available, these are the seats I always request. To see so many people in a small space with clear choreographed roles is mesmerizing. Recently I had that opportunity and was awestruck to see a young man working the station in front of the fiery oven. He was moving back and forth between the computer screen posting orders, the prep area and his cook station. There was a reason he stood out from the rest of the white coated chefs: he had just one hand.

This young man removed hot casseroles to add ingredients and then reinsert to the flaming oven, managed a mandolin to slice vegetables, and moved dozens of entrees with precision. That restaurant had hired a skilled employee who kept pace with his peers.

In encouraging employers to consider hiring individuals with disabilities, Carol Glazer, CEO of National Organization on Disability, has said, “If you think about people who have to navigate a world that was not built for them, you have to be a good problem solver.” This chef was an amazing problem solver, such as using an insulated towel to balance hot plates on his elbow of his effected arm.

What businesses in Northeast Indiana have seen the same success? Who else looks to the talent pool of individuals with disabilities as a resource? Through a recent grant from AWS Foundation to Greater Fort Wayne Inc. (GFW), we hope to see that talent pool increase. By focusing on paid employment, internships and volunteer opportunities, GFW will work to open pathways to employment for people of all abilities.

Stephen Hawking, the recently deceased astrophysicist who spent his final decades of life in a wheelchair and was able to speak with only computer assistance because of ALS, was a visible advocate for those with disabilities being productive employees. He said his research was possible because he was freed from the typical demands of classroom instruction in light that he couldnt stand in front of a group of students and teach. In his introduction to a World Health Organization report on disabilities he said, “We have a moral duty to remove the barriers to participation and to invest sufficient funding and expertise to unlock the vast potential of people with disabilities.”

I invite you to join that same journey to remove barriers. If you are interested in learning more call GFW’s Director of Disability Initiatives, Kevin Morse.