Disabilities Forum: Not a handout, but an opportunity

Forestville, MD, Oct. 20, 2017 - Yesterday, the Prince George's County Economic Development Corporation's President and CEO Jim Coleman was among the featured speakers participating in National Disability Employment Awareness Month at The Arc of Prince George's County's 2nd Annual 'Inclusion Works' Breakfast. Robert Malone, Executive Director of The Arc Prince George's County, Jim Estepp, Director of Operations of The Greater Prince George's Business Roundtable, along with top executives from Comcast NBCUniversal and the Federal Communications Commission were also in attendance to celebrate the important role individuals with disabilities play in workforce diversity. Comcast NBCUniversal is an employer partner that contributed a computer learning lab to The Arc's Employment Center last year to assist its clients in becoming more familiar and confident with computer technology. This year they are donating a SensoryRoom.
"The EDC is a beneficiary of the great work of The Arc," said Coleman. "Just a few months ago, we were connected to a wonderful young man named Darius. Since his arrival, Darius has become an important part of our family using the skills he learned at The Arc. He's even gained new skills as a member of my team, and you can see his work in many of the pictures that we post on our social media platforms daily. My team has firsthand experience at the power of Inclusion and we know that it really works. I encourage all employers to get engaged with The Arc Prince George's County and hire someone from their program. Your company will only grow and become better!"
The Arc Prince George's County, a membership organization with 600 members that include people with developmental disabilities, their families and friends, the professionals who work with them, and other concerned citizens. Through its partnerships with the business community, companies gain a greater understanding of how individuals with disabilities are trained, prepared and supported to go into the business world. 
"We're excited to have so many employers here at our Inclusion Works Breakfast," Malone. "We had a fantastic panel of employers and Arc clients who spoke to encourage employers to look beyond the myths and address the concept of hiring people with disabilities. The Arc Prince George's County is here to prepare our clients and employers to create an inclusive workplace."
Today's event was also a celebration of the contributions of workers with disabilities and educate the business community about the value of a diverse workforce, inclusive of their skills and talents. Each company, represented by both its company 'champion' and its employee with differing abilities, spoke on the importance workplace inclusiveness in giving individuals with differing abilities the opportunity to succeed without judgment or fears. The employees and employers alike expressed their gratification and sense of pride in being able to go to work in an inclusive environment.
"I've been a part of the Arc since 2003," said Timothy York, Board of Directors, The Arc Prince George's County. "I'm currently in my second-term as the client member of the Board of Directors. I've enjoyed the process so much, and I never dreamed that I would be able to make such contributions to an organization. What I try to get people to understand is that this is not just a social service organization. The Arc's work involves intervening in the lives of people and their families. Sometimes it's a matter of life and death. After my parents passed away, had it not been for The Arc, I sincerely believe that I would not be alive today."
Employers also highlighted that their companies addressed their fears and concerns head on by developing viable solutions that have proven successful.
"Being in the construction industry there is extreme risk which was a major concern for us," said Joe Sendldorfer, Branch Manager at Road Safe Traffic Systems. "We overcame this by being systematic and working with all of the teams in our company to come up with a plan together. We had to figure out what worked best for everyone involved. The Arc was also very supportive in this process. I had to take a personal interest in matching my employees drive.
For more information on workforce development and job placement services, contact Jeffrey Swilley (jswilley@co.pg.md.us), EDC's Deputy Director of Business Services at 301-618-8400. To learn how to engage with The Arc Prince George's County, please contact Danielle Milner at dmilner@thearcofpgc.org.