The Goal: Increase Jobs for People with Disabilities

TAMPA -

There are already companies - big companies - with proven track records of hiring people with disabilities.

Doug Polarski(sic) is staffing manager for Home Depot in Tampa. His job is to open the door for candidates who are looking for employment.

POLARSKI: Whether they're disabled or whether they're not disabled, everybody has some special talent they can bring to the organization that helps us reflect community and diversity and, also to be more capable as organization.

He sees the large number of people with disabilities as a promising employee pool.

POLARSKI: The statistic nationally is that 17 million people, disabled individuals are able to work and are not employed.

Hilton Reservations was another company the Tampa Mayor's Alliance for Persons with Disabilities recognized earlier this summer for its inclusive hiring practices.

Sandra Cook, human resources manager for Hilton Reservations, was asked why more companies haven't followed their example.

COOK: I think they fail to see people with disabilities as people rather than someone that's different. Right now the technology that is out there is very helpful. It's really opened up a new world for people with disabilities at least visual disabilities for us. It's been very helpful.

Technological advances and simple, no cost accommodations have helped Jeannie Amendola create a successful career. She has 17 years with Walt Disney World Resorts.

AMENDOLA: In my particular circumstance where I have low vision, it's just the idea of making sure that office furniture in the same place. That costs nothing. It's having low lighting, floor lamps, desk lamps instead of fluorescent lighting that really doesn't cost anything either. So, there are ways to get around this to make sure that employee is productive. You just need to talk tot hat person with a disability to find out exactly what they do need.

Amendola is a newly appointed board member to Able Trust, the governor's alliance to advance employment for people with disabilities. So she sees part of her job as being a myth buster when it comes to hiring.

AMEDOLA: The biggest myth is that accommodations for people with disabilities are so costly that is a myth and another myth is that perhaps that someone with a disability is not going to have a good attendance record at their companies. And you'll find that published sources do say that people with disabilities have very good records of attendance because they want to not just prove to themselves but to prove to others that they can succeed.

Amendola is one of the keynote speakers scheduled for the EmployAbility Symposium at the Renaissance Hotel in Tampa.

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