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Local 12: Disabled community ready to work during labor shortage

An adult redwood client placing items in bags.

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Local 12 reports from RedwoodDiane Winiarski is with Allsup Employment Services, the company hired by the government to help administer the program.

“A lot of the fear from the employer is that it’s going to be costly, and it really isn’t,” she said.

Winiarski and Northern Kentucky’s Redwood Center say employers are taking another look at the disabled during the current worker shortage.

Redwood is a private nonprofit agency helping between 600 and 800 mentally or physically disabled clients and their families annually. The nonprofit helps train those with disabilities how to use computers and to complete other workplace tasks. It also helps take care of kids and loved ones with disabilities during the day so their family members can also go to work.

It’s a constituency that can be overlooked, but Redwood CEO Sharon Fusco says the current worker shortage has employers taking a second look.

“Everyone wants a purpose, right? Everyone wants a reason to get up and out of bed every day,” Fusco said. “Our goal, our job, is to make that possible, to make that easy, for both the employer and the employee.”

There are some of Redwood’s clients who simply cannot work in a public place, so the agency has a spot to allow companies to outsource work, allowing disabled employees to work directly from the Redwood center. The agency even has a new 3D printer to help build maps and other things for the visually impaired, and it works with companies to get the right equipment and amenities in place to make sure workers can be productive.

Fusco says it makes those workers even more loyal to their employer.

Statistics show that, during the pandemic, the percentage of those with a disability having a job dropped by 1% from 2019 to 2020.

Jewell still can’t work more than 30 hours a week or lift anything heavy, but she says her employer has been great in making accommodations for her throughout the process.

“It’s OK and it’s doable. We’re able to manage on 30 hours a week income,” she said.

The most recent data indicates nearly 2.5 million adults in Ohio have some kind of disability, or about 28% of those statewide. But in 2019, more than 4,700 disabled Ohioans found a new job.


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