GVRA's services showcased on the Atlanta Business Chronicle's BIZ

October 23, 2018

This month, in honor of National Disability Employment Awareness Month, Georgia Vocational Rehabilitation Agency (GVRA) was proud to showcase its programs and services on the Atlanta Business Chronicle's BIZ, which airs Sunday mornings at 11am on 11Alive.  The links (two parts) to our segments, as well as the scripts, are below. 

Part One

Crystal Edmondson (standing in front of a metropolitan backdrop in front of the international symbol for disabilities):

CE: October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, a time to celebrate the contributions to the workforce that people with disabilities bring. But having a disability could mean many different things. So, how can someone who is disabled ensure that they have access to the services and support to enable them to work? And, what can employers do to help?

Crystal is joined in studio, seated, by Sean T. Casey, Georgia Vocational Rehabilitation Agency (GVRA) Executive Director, and Charlie Miller, GVRA Legislative Liaison.

CE: Sean, why do we have the need, if you will, for National Disability Employment Awareness Month? Where’s the disconnect?

SC: Well, I think that when you say disconnect, first off, with this month, it is seventy years now in the making. I would say that today, in today’s environment, today’s society, individuals with disabilities have a greater earning power, have a greater knowledge of the avenues available to them when it comes to employment, but I will say that you hit a key word on the head, disconnect. There are too many business leaders within Atlanta and also throughout the state of Georgia who are unaware of the opportunities, especially working with GVRA, Georgia Vocational Rehabilitation Agency, there’s really two reasons why business leaders in Atlanta and in the state of Georgia should be, when they’re hiring, should be reaching out to us, and that is the first and most important thing, is our services are free.

CE: Wow.

SC: When you hire one of our clients, Charlie and I, we don’t send you a bill. You don’t get an invoice. Now, you’ve paid your taxes. That pays our salary, it keeps the lights on. But our services to you, business owner, we are free. Now, two is, when you hire one of our clients throughout the state of Georgia, we have forty offices. We are literally everywhere.

CE: So you’re all across the state?

SC: Charlie and I have 1,400 coworkers, 40 different offices, 2 residential campuses, and 3 factories. But, when you hire one of our clients, you are eligible for a tax credit of up to $9,600. So right there, right off the bat, you are eligible for a tax credit, and our services are free. $9,600.

CE: So that is a strong incentive for businesses to consider making their workplaces more inclusive, but Charlie, I want to ask you, have you found that employers have questions, maybe they’re uneasy about somebody who has a varying ability?

CM: Yes. Of course. There’s a lot of hesitation in the employment field that we’re learning that we need to learn about self-advocacy and be able to advocate for ourselves. And a lot of the business owners, it’s not that they don’t want to hire someone with a disability. It’s just that they want to make sure it is the right fit for them. We can make sure that that employee coming into the workplace will be a hundred percent the right fit for them.

CE: So what’s the first step for someone who is an employee or a job-seeker if you will, and they want to return to work or return to an old job, and they want to enter the workforce for the first time?

CM: Well, luckily, we have several difference ways that people are welcome to get in contact with us. One way is to go on our website, gvs.ga.gov, and then also, we also have a customer care line as well, 1-844-FOR-GVRA, and that will go to our Customer Care, and our Customer Care team will find exactly where you are, to find out where the closest office is to y’all. And then as soon as we find the closest office, we will send that office an email to tell them that you were looking to apply for services and that office will reach out to them.

CE: We’ll have more on the discussion with Sean and Charlie later in the show.

Part Two

Crystal Edmondson stands in front of a blue set featuring images of a cityscape. Video of an office worker, sitting in a wheelchair, typing on a computer, places behind her.

CE: According to the Department of Labor, in 2017, the unemployment rate for people with disabilities, equals more than twice that of people with no disabilities. That offers a challenge for jobseekers and the workplace. That is where our discussion picks up.

Crystal sits on an interview set with Sean T. Casey and Charlie Miller.

SC: Last year, during our legislative session, we introduced Employment First. It was passed by the House, passed by the Senate, and signed into law this past spring by Governor Nathan Deal. With Employment First, what we did was reach out to every single stakeholder with Employment First within the state of Georgia, and made sure they had a seat at the table. We are making sure that when an individual with a disability in the state of Georgia wants to go to work, if they’re working with GVRA, if they’re working with the Department of Labor, if they’re working with the Department of Education, one of the providers, nonprofits out there throughout the state of Georgia, the first question in that conversation is, how do they get you a job? We had wide support. If you’re a Republican, if you’re a Democrat, when it passed the House, there was only one no vote. When it passed the Senate, again, there was only one no vote. And we are very excited to be bringing this council together and bringing the entire community to the table so we can figure out the best way forward.

CE: And is the goal, also, of this legislation, of putting together this council if you will, to improve equality across Georgia? I mean, we’ve got record employment across the state. How do we improve equality for people who have varying abilities?

CM: Yes, ma’am, there is. Employment has luckily gone up, and people are able to find jobs more easily. Now we want to make sure that the disability community is involved with those jobs as well. So we are lucky to be able to have this bill for employment and then also try to bring in integration as well. So now people are getting more understanding about disability issues, more people are understanding that a person with a disability is the same like everybody else. And like everyone else, we all want integration, we all want community, and we all want employment.

CE: One of the things that I thought was really interesting was, you say, people who have a disability are just like everybody else, have you found that, when hiring someone who has a disability, are they more loyal to the company? Are they more, is retention better for that population?

CM: Yes, ma’am. It is. It is amazing to watch a person with a disability go into an employment status and completely rock it. Completely. I mean, it is amazing to watch, because statistically, it shows that people with disabilities, stay longer and truly try to do the best we can because we understand what it means to have one leg down, and when we’re able to be on that level playing field, we will make sure to come out and show up.