By Mason Braasch | Photo by Marcus Aurelius via pexels.com
In our March/April 2022 issue, we reported on Madison and its accessibility for differently-abled people. Beyond accessibility though, access to meaningful employment opportunities is another key aspect for differently-abled people to feel integrated in our communities and fulfilled in their daily lives.
Within Dane County, there is a wide range of services that help people with disabilities find employment. Along with programs such as Project SEARCH, a 12-month high school transition program for students with disabilities ages 18-21 (which provides vocational training and education, with the goal of obtaining community employment), there are a plethora of disability-friendly employers both locally and nationally.
Several local businesses have supported their employees with disabilities for years and have worked with a local vocational agency, Community Work Services (CWS), in order to create customized positions for workers. (For more information on CWS and how they can help with a job search, visit their website).
AprilAire aspires to create healthier homes through products including humidifiers, air purifiers and ventilation systems. Their production facility, located in Madison, has provided substantial employment for individuals with disabilities. Currently they have one differently-abled employee who helps with clerical work and is a vital part of their team. aprilaire.com/careers
Edgewood college has been a long-term employer for individuals with disabilities and has been recognized by CWS for their dedication to providing support for their differently-abled employees. They currently have three employees who are supported through CWS. Their jobs range from food preparation, to manning a cash register to garbage and recycling maintenance. Their newest hire was added to the team during the COVID-19 pandemic, and another employee has been working for the college since 2004. edgewood.edu
Shopbop, an online fashion retailer, was acquired by Amazon in 2006, but was founded in Madison. Their warehouse on the near east side has been working with CWS and has an employee placed with Shopbop since 2014. CWS calls Shopbop a very supportive employer and a wonderful place to work, as they offer their current employee with disabilities preferable hours, benefits, paid time off and a great wage. shopbop.com
Ten Pin Alley
Ten Pin Alley is a bowling alley in Fitchburg that has worked with CWS to provide meaningful employment to disabled individuals. Currently, they have one employee who works at the bowling alley two days a week in food service. The company provides a fun and exciting place to work and makes employees feel that they are truly part of a team. tenpinalleys.com
Porchlight is a nonprofit organization in Madison that provides emergency shelter, outreach and employment services and permanent housing to over 8,000 people annually. The Porchlight Products Program provides work for disabled people and those who have experienced homelessness, teaching them how to make quality food products, such as salsas, that are distributed and sold at local stores and restaurants. The program is rooted in the goal of providing employees with a sense of purpose, accomplishment and satisfaction in their lives that contributes to their stability and independence. porchlightinc.org/our-products
For additional assistance in the Madison area, there are a variety of vocational agencies in Dane County that specialize in disability employment, including The Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) and Community Work Services.
The popular thrift store is known for their job training programs and being an employer for differently-abled people. As a leading nonprofit provider of training and job placement services, Goodwill is committed to providing opportunities to those with barriers to employment. In fact, Goodwill states that these opportunities have been a key element of their mission for more than a century. goodwill.org/meaningful-work-for-people-with-disabilities
Walgreens trains disabled individuals and provides employment opportunities through their three- to four-week REDI program. The program teaches valuable career skills that aim to prepare participants for work in any retail setting. Additionally, Walgreens uses the “three pillars of disability inclusion,” which means equal pay and expectations for all workers, and a sustainable model for human resources. walgreens.com/images/adaptive/pdf/REDIprogramguide_april.pdf
Lowe’s is a national home improvement store that has continually been recognized for their commitment to disability employment. The company believes in an inclusive workspace that fosters success for all employees and is committed to creating a supportive and inclusive environment for all. corporate.lowes.com/our-responsibilities/our-people
This office supplies store is committed to providing accommodations to employees with disabilities, citing that it expands the employment talent pool and benefits their business. On their website, Staples discusses accommodating employees with invisible and visible disabilities, and how employers can make their workspace and hiring process more inclusive, including encouraging employees to request accommodations, providing ongoing support and promoting disability awareness. staples.com/content-hub/staples-worklife-magazine
United States Postal Service
The United States Postal Service (USPS) is actively hiring new talent, including those with disabilities. Their policy states that the mail service selects employees with disabilities from a competitive hiring register, “so long as the individual can perform their job, with or without accommodations, without posing harm to others or themselves.” The USPS also accommodates those with disabilities on a noncompetitive register with positions such as mail handler, distribution clerk and mail processor. about.usps.com/careers/welcome.htm=
Walmart states on their website that they are committed to creating a work environment where all employees can be safe and productive, regardless of ability. The national grocer and retailer has a committed Accommodation Team in order to help disabled applicants and employees through the hiring process and beyond by providing resources, helping employees find appropriate new jobs within Walmart and assisting applicants with disabilities. one.walmart.com/content/usone/en_us/me/health/research-and-help/ada.html