Wynnefield: Program Provides Employment for Residents with Disabilities
People with disabilities are a large but largely overlooked minority group in America. The desires for employment among people with disabilities are no different from other groups.
The Inglis Community Employment Services offers people with disabilities job coaching and training. Although this entity focuses mainly on clients with physical disabilities it occasionally serves a people with different disabilities including physical, psychiatric, cognitive and sensory.
In Pennsylvania, there are 1.8 million people living with a disability. According to the United States Census American Community Survey, 31,872 people with disabilities are employed in Philadelphia.
The ideal qualities of a perspective employee should be loyalty, respect and a strong work ethic not whether a person has a disability. On Sept. 25, 2008, the federal Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law to prevent discrimination in the public and private sector workplaces.
Vicki Cuscino, director of Community Support Services at Inglis, oversees the Community Employment Services program.
“It’s important for people with disabilities to be able to live their lives as they choose and live as independently as they can and want to in their own community,” Cuscino said.
The state of Pennsylvania’s Office of Vocational Rehabilitation refers most of its clients to Inglis. The job search process occurs on a case-by-case basis and is determined by the exact job path the individual is looking for, which includes part-time or full-time work.
Veronica Torrence, a West Philadelphia resident with cerebral palsy has utilized Inglis for job-seeking assistance. She was referred to Inglis by the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation. Torrence desired to find a career that suited her lifestyle. For the past seven months Torrence has been employed at the Please Touch Museum in Fairmount Park less than two miles from the Inglis House.
“I really like to see the kids happy and give back to the community,” Torrence explained. As a mother to a 5-year-old girl, Torrence has a very busy schedule but truly enjoys the employment opportunity she was given at the Please Touch Museum.
The 2012 unemployment rate in Philadelphia is 10.9 percent according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Currently, the job market is tough for everyone including people with disabilities who often face discrimination in employment.
The Community Employment Services staff at Inglis works with clients on various pre-employment tasks that include computer training, resume building and interviewing skills. Once a client is hired for a job, Inglis moves to the next step of providing job coaching.
“Some people we assist on the job for the first few weeks for job coaching. We work with the employer as well to find out their wants and expectations,” Vicki Cuscino said as she explained the individualized process.
Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, Taco Bell, Philadelphia Animal Care and Control Association, Employee Screening Services, Merchant’s Choice Card Systems, Greater Philadelphia Cares and Pennsylvania State Police barracks are among the employers Inglis works with to provide jobs to people with disabilities.
“In addition to doing the pre-employment and then job coaching services, we also act as an employer,” Cuscino said.
Karen Voegele, executive director of Community Based Services at Inglis, oversees the adult day program, care management and community employment services.
The community employment services currently cater to about 75 people. “Our goal is to really enable those who are living out in the community to reach their full potential and goals. We want to be there to support them,” Voegele said.
A majority of Inglis clients find out about the services through traditonal methods such as word of mouth, community outreach programs and local area hospitals including Lankenau Medical Center in Ardmore, Pa. Inglis provides its services to people living in the Philadelphia area as well as surrounding counties as well. It has also given help to those who live as far as Carbon and Lehigh counties plus communities in South Jersey.
“Our goal is to empower people into civilities and give them the skills they need to learn how to get a job on their own now or in the future,” Cuscino said.
Inglis has assisted people with physical disabilities since 1877. Originally founded in Southwest Philadelphia, the facility relocated 50 years later to its current site at 2600 Belmont Ave. in Wynnefield. This facility began with a dream of a young girl named, Annie C. Inglis. She lived her life in a wheelchair due to scarlet fever. At the time of her death, she wanted nothing more than a place in Philadelphia to assist people with disabilities.
The public sector provides an ample amount of careers for people with disabilities as well. The City of Philadelphia is an equal opportunity employer and does not discriminate against people with disabilities.
Charles Horton is the acting executive director and accessibility compliance specialist for the Mayor’s Commission on People with Disabilities. This commission ensures the rights of people with disabilities in the city of Philadelphia. It is also involved with legislation and development of programs for people with disabilities in the public and private sectors.
Horton, who uses a wheelchair, stressed the importance of employers giving those with disabilities a chance emphasizing that “We’re just like” people without disabilities.
“We can hopefully get people being more independent and that’s one thing we really do promote in this office is self-advocacy,” Horton said.
Individuals or employers often think that it will cost them extra to accommodate an employee with a physical disability. This is not true, reflecting a lack of knowledge.
In the majority of instances it does not cost an employer any extra to hire a person with a physical disability. The fear factor is the main circumstance that might hold a lot of employers back. “They are just as deserving of a job as anyone else,” Horton said.
“Get to know who I am and give me a chance, that’s the key thing. Give me a chance and let me prove myself,” Horton said emphasizing the importance of the hiring of people with physical disabilities.
In 2011, Philadelphia City Council proclaimed the month of October as Disability Employment Awareness Month.
by By Danielle Rosati