According to local nonprofit Able SC, South Carolina is leaving the disabled community behind. Able SC is working to combat misconceptions about hiring disabled employees.
A Columbia-based nonprofit is helping many in the disabled community find independence by connecting clients with employment opportunities.
Able SC, which seeks to further the independence and increase employment for people with disabilities, has been working with organizations including Blue Cross Blue Shield and Steel Hands Brewing Company to help potential workers land jobs. At same time, the agency is providing coaching in such areas as interview techniques and resume creation.
Sarah Nichols, director of public relations and special events for Able SC says, “everyone is at a different part of their journey when they come here. For that we provide employment service coordinators who help and coach people.”
Currently, in South Carolina, only 32.6% of the disabled are employed, according to the Institute on Disability.
Robbie Kopp, director of advocacy and community access for Able SC believes with overall unemployment as low as 2.6% the disabled community is being left behind.
“We have really low unemployment across the board and low participation of hiring from the disabled community,” he said.
Kopp says unemployment is linked to the misconceptions behind hiring disabled individuals, which include cultural beliefs and expenses. Culturally, Kopp says South Carolina feels the need to protect the disability community when what that community actually wants is a “fair shot” at employment.
Regarding expenses, Kopp believes there should be more tools to help connect employers with the disability community to educate them on how simple accommodations can be.
Some options, he suggests, include establishing partnerships with various organizations to promote employment.
“Some organizations are interested in hiring people with disabilities, but they aren’t sure where to start,” Nichols said.
Able helps coach organizations on creating simple job descriptions for individuals with intellectual disabilities making the interviewing process easier.
Bri Ash, who has cerebral palsy, attends the University of South Carolina and is obtaining her master’s degree in social work. Ash interns at Able SC, and said accommodations for her could be as simple as a new desk.
However, Nichols says there can be expensive accommodations needed for people with disabilities. Cali Sandel is legally blind with very low vision. She uses a CCTV, which magnifies text and a narrated screen reader to help with reading during her work day. Technology such as Sandel’s costs around $2,000, but Kopp says “around 59% of accommodations cost no money at all.
Kopp said once a disabled individual is able to get a job, there is a less-commonly known certificate, known as the 14c Certificate, that allows business to legally pay below minimum wage. In South Carolina there are more than 2,700 individuals working under a 14c certificate, he explained.
Able SC is supporting a new Pay for Equal Work Act, which would add a disability as a class. Able hopes this act will combat common misconceptions and prevent what his group considers discriminating legislation.
Nichols notes that hiring individuals with disabilities can lead to opportunities for more revenue. “If it’s a person in a wheelchair for example they would be more tuned to their accommodations, making sure the organization is accommodating for all,” she said.
Individuals looking to learn more about and support employment opportunities for those with disabilities can join Able SC and others at the South Carolina State House on the north steps for census day on April 1. No registration is required. To contact Able SC or find learn more visit https://www.able-sc.org/scdisabilityemploymentcoalition/.