U.S. Deputy Secretary of Labor Christopher Lu and U.S. Representative Bill Foster held an employer breakfast recently on hiring people with disabilities. More than 60 people attended the event held in Oswego, Illinois on Tuesday, August 26.
In addition to Deputy Secretary Lu and Representative Foster, an expert panel of state and local service providers talked about effective disability hiring strategies and resources.
Despite passage of the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act), landmark civil rights legislation that became law 25 years ago, unemployment remains high for people with disabilities.
AbilityLinks information and referral counselor, Janice Duvall and program director Ken Skord spoke along with representatives from the Chicagoland Business Leadership Network, Illinois Department of Employment Security, Illinois Department of Rehabilitation Services, Cornerstone Services, Association for Individual Development and Great Lakes ADA Center.
Ms. Duvall grew up with a hereditary condition that caused low vision and limited her access to learn alongside of other classmates. She said that new technology that magnifies text and images on paper and electronic devices wasn’t around when she was growing up and going to school. Seeing the blackboard and reading work sheets and books were major challenges.
Since then, access to assistive technology has increased and the cost has dropped. Ms. Duvall cited a smart phone app that magnifies paper documents to a size she can read. It costs only 99 cents. She used it when an expensive piece of equipment costing hundreds of dollars stopped working.
“Assistive technology has been a game changer in how I do my job. I want you to open minded with what assistive technology has done not only for me but can do for people with disabilites that you hire”, Ms. Duvall said.