Image of five people around a conference table, two of whom are shaking hands. One of the people at the table is in a wheelchair.Finding qualified candidates with disabilities need not be challenging. Building relationships with various local recruitment sources, such as local vocational rehabilitation specialists, American Job Centers, disability service providers and other organizations is a key strategy. In many cases, such organizations can connect businesses with candidate databases or identify service providers in local communities to assist in identifying and training individuals for specific workforce needs.

Want to Learn More?
There are a number of resources small businesses can use to find partners and learn more about building effective partnerships with disability organizations, such as the following:

In Action

At the Thomas Hooker Brewing Company—a craft beer brewery in Bloomfield, Connecticut—employees with disabilities are an integral and productive part of the workforce. And the company credits community partnerships with much of its success on the diversity and inclusion front. Over the past five years, the brewery has benefitted from a winning recruitment partnership with Oak Hill, a service provider that helps people with disabilities throughout Connecticut experience rich, fulfilling lives. Oak Hill helps Thomas Hooker fill positions with qualified individuals with disabilities, and the relationship has yielded excellent results that are a true “win-win.” The company benefits from the work of great employees with disabilities, while the workers themselves experience life-changing employment opportunities. The employees sourced through Oak Hill are engaged in meaningful work, performing integral business tasks for the company. In addition to training them on their specific job tasks, Thomas Hooker also educates its employees on effective ways of working together, while reinforcing the values of independent living.

“Words can’t explain how proud I am of our partnership with our Oak Hill team members, and how they have become an integral part of not only our operation, but the culture of our company,” says Curt A. Cameron, Thomas Hooker Brewing Company President.

A string of fast food outlets in Chicago has found an effective way to fill its staffing needs by partnering with a local charter school that serves a high number of students with learning disabilities. The Youth Connection Charter School, which has 20 locations across the city, trains the students in job readiness and a customized curriculum developed with the restaurant and then provides job coaching and support during internships. More than 75 percent of the interns go on to become regular employees, with the school providing job coaching for an additional 90 days.

The Illinois Tollway has found partnerships with disability service providers to be an effective means for recruiting employees for its customer service call center located on the campus of the University of Illinois at Chicago. Among these partners are the Chicago Lighthouse and Schwab Rehabilitation Hospital. The arrangement works well because the center was designed in collaboration with the Chicago Lighthouse with universal accessibility in mind, both in terms of physical and technological infrastructure.

Mohegan Sun, a Native American-owned casino in Uncasville, Connecticut, has discovered a partnership with a local disability service provider to be an effective way to fill its diverse staffing needs. Working together, the casino and Community Enterprises, Inc. developed the Mohegan Sun Inclusion Academy to train job seekers for specific in-demand jobs, ranging from cashiers to cooks to valet dispatchers. Community Enterprises screens the applicants, many of whom are referred from the state’s Bureau of Rehabilitation Services, and conducts three or four weeks of training in a classroom setting provided by the casino. Successful trainees then receive on-the-job support from a job coach for six weeks to ensure a smooth transition. More than 100 employees have come on board through the program.