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By William Schultz

We need more Aaron Bosleys in our upstate economy.

A recent News edition featured a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette report about how hard it is for people with disabilities to find employment and recent governmental changes that may ease that difficulty.

The report used the example of a young deaf man, Aaron Bosley, and his futile job search in upstate New York. He eventually relocated to Pennsylvania when a health insurer hired him through a consulting service there.

Unfortunately, people like Bosley are not alone when it comes to such frustration.

The U.S. Department of Labor reports unemployment among people with disabilities is more than double that of the general population. But a welcomed change bodes well for qualified people with disabilities in Western New York who want to work and for those companies that hire them.

Earlier this year, the Department of Labor updated regulations implementing Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act and setting an “aspirational” 7 percent goal for federal contractors or subcontractors to employ qualified individuals with disabilities in each job category of the contractor’s workforce.

The new rules also require contractors to invite job applicants, at the “pre-offer” stage of the hiring process, to voluntarily self-identify as individuals with a disability – in addition to an existing requirement for them to invite applicants to do so after a job offer is received.

For almost three decades, People Inc. has been helping to prepare and train thousands of individuals with developmental disabilities to secure and maintain positions in our local workforce. We have seen firsthand the commitment, work ethic, loyalty and unique experiences these individuals bring to their employers.

Not only does it make good business sense to hire these individuals, but companies that do reap the additional benefit of having family, friends and associates of these individuals purchase their goods and services – and usually over the long term.

The many companies throughout Buffalo Niagara that serve as federal contractors or subcontractors would be business-wise to get up to speed on these new regulations, and focus special human resources attention on a concerted effort to recruit, train and retain workers with disabilities.

Hopefully, future Bosleys will have the opportunity to work and stay in upstate and not leave to pursue their employment dreams.

William Schultz is associate vice president of vocational and employment services at People Inc.