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Giving people a chance: Hiring those with disabilities in Indiana

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Posted at 10:55 AM, Oct 11, 2021

INDIANAPOLIS — As many industries are experiencing labor shortages, businesses are turning to an underutilized workforce.

After years of seeking independence and purpose in life, Shawn Fulton found a meaningful career and is now making a difference at the state level for people with disabilities.

“I’m actually on nine different counsels for the state," said Fulton, an education and training coordinator with Arc of Indiana.

As a Self-Advocates of Indiana board member, Fulton has also testified multiple times at the statehouse.

“My old self would’ve been like, 'Is this even possible?'" Fulton said.

His goal right now is to connect people with disabilities with employment opportunities.

“A lot of them want to be independent, a lot of them want to go out and have a job,” said Jami Whitehead, a patient transport department supervisor with IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital. “They just don’t always get that chance without something on a résumé saying that, 'Hey, I’ve done this before.'"

The hospital has a training program for people with disabilities in four different departments that give them on-the-job training to have the skills to get a job.

Whiteland said the hospital as a whole benefit when they work and hire people with disabilities.

“They connect with the patients on maybe even a different level than anybody else honestly because in some cases they might have been exactly where they were,” Whitehead explained.

“We absolutely believe that the more people with disabilities who are working in the community, the better the community is,” said Andy Kirby, chief operations officer with Arc of Indiana.

In Indiana, less than 20% of people with disabilities are employed.

“Especially in our current environment where our workforce crisis in all industries is so significant, our talent pipeline seems to be so pinched,” Kirby said.

Kirby added that employers from across the state are reaching out to them, asking how they can engage with this group of people, recognizing that people with disabilities can be the solution to this workforce crisis.

“We know we have 100,000 positions in Indiana that we can’t fill,” Kirby said. “There are also 100,000 people with a disability in Indiana who are not currently working.”

“If they hire somebody with a disability, they might be able to do the job better than a regular person can do the job. They have to give people a chance,” Fulton said.

Stephanie Wade at WRTV first reported this story.