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Poughkeepsie… Dutchess County Executive Marcus J. Molinaro today welcomed representatives from local businesses and services providers to the County’s “ThinkDIFFERENTLY for Jobs” round table event to discuss the importance of hiring residents with all abilities and its benefit for companies and the community.
The round table, co-sponsored by the Dutchess County Workforce Investment Board and hosted by the Henry A. Wallace Center at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library & Museum in Hyde Park, included testimonials from local business owners who have hired residents with all abilities and community experts who provided explanation of the benefits for businesses who seek to diversify their workforce.
County Executive Molinaro said, “Every resident of every ability is able to contribute to their community in some way, and each one wants to feel a sense of belonging. Holding a job and earning a paycheck not only instills pride in residents with disabilities, it also teaches us and them teamwork and responsibility and reminds us all we have an equal stake in their community. We are grateful to our local businesses who have answered our call to ‘ThinkDIFFERENTLY’ about hiring employees of all abilities, and we hope even more will see the benefits – from both an economic and community standpoint – and continue the trend.”
Inga McKay, a Transition Coordinator at the Anderson Center for Autism, led discussions between local business owners, educators and community leaders about financial incentives and supports available to those who employ residents with special needs.
Patrick Muller, the Program Director at Taconic Resources for Independence, led the Business & Community Partners Panel discussion, which included representatives from companies which have shown leadership in employing and educating individuals of all abilities. Panelists shared their experiences about the hiring process and the successes they’ve had after hiring employees with special needs. They were joined by representatives from the New York State Adult Career & Continuing Educational Services - Vocational Rehabilitation (ACCES-VR), the NYS Commission for the Blind, Dutchess County Division of Veterans’ Services, NYS Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD), OurAbility and Dutchess County BOCES, who provided clarity and resources to the discussion.
Tom Frost, Esq., Supervising Senior Associate with Rosicki, Rosicki & Associates, said, “Community engagement is one of the hallmarks of our firm. We’re committed to creating a diverse organization, one which includes people of every background and ability. Our firm gives many people with disabilities an opportunity to grow both personally and professionally, but what they give back to us and the community is immeasurable.”
According to a June 2016 U.S. Department of Labor report, only 19.5 percent of individuals with disabilities enter the workforce ages 16 and over, compared to 68.5 percent of those in the same age range without a disability. Moreover, the unemployment rate for individuals with a disability was 10.7 percent in 2015, about twice that of those without a disability (5.1 percent).
In 2015, County Executive Molinaro established the “ThinkDIFFERENTLY” initiative, which looks to foster a more inclusive community for Dutchess County residents with special needs. Since then, Dutchess County has taken numerous steps to “ThinkDIFFERENTLY” about residents with special needs, including funding, through the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Program, several projects featuring accessible infrastructure; partnering with the Anderson Center for Autism to provide free Autism Supportive Environment training to businesses; and appointing Toni-Marie Ciarfella as Dutchess County’s Deputy Commissioner of Special Needs, the first such position of its kind in the state.
Deputy Commissioner Ciarfella said, “Finding employment is critically important to many Dutchess County residents with special needs. A job brings the independence and self-confidence to live a fruitful life, knowing their adding to their community. Dutchess County can benefit greatly from a more diversified workforce, and residents with special needs are great assets in making that a reality.”
More information about the “ThinkDIFFERENTLY” initiative, including how individuals, organizations, businesses and communities can take part, is available at ThinkDIFFERENTLY.net.