I just attended an event that more of you should go to- the annual recognition luncheon of Northwest Committee for the Employment of People with Disabilities, or NCEPD. As an old Rehab counselor and former member of the Committee, I’ve attended quite a few of these and they are truly amazing events. You hear stories of courage, stories of generosity, stories of ingenious problem solving, a glimpse into a world people without disabilities rarely think about. Our friend Bob Van Fleet used to refer to the non-disabled folks as CRABs- Currently Regarded as Able Bodied. It only takes one car collision, motorcycle crash or work accident to turn a CRAB into a person with a disability and of course many people are disabled from birth. Giving these folks a chance to be self-sufficient is one of the best things an employer can do, for themselves and for the community. Thus, both the employee and employer are honored.
I hadn’t been in a couple of years and was pleased to find that Reaching for Independence , a parents’ group in Fortuna which was just getting started when I left, has become a multi-service agency. If you’re not familiar with the rehab agencies and their programs, be aware you can locate a suitable candidate for your vacancy and get tax credits and FREE job coaching which which continues during the entire term of employment. The clients range from folks who do best at repetitive tasks to geniuses who happen to use wheelchairs. Or medications for seizure disorders. Or clocks that TELL you the time. Or screen readers for visually impaired people so that they, too, can waste time on Facebook as well as attend distance learning classes at schools and colleges. I should mention that both CR and HSU have many services for people with disabilities, who by most counts comprise about ten per cent of the population.
Services for those of us who are older? Not a problem. After all, you have two choices in life- you can become disabled or you can die young. I know which I’m picking.
I met a gentleman who is retiring from HSU after 38 years. Could have sat out the whole time on Social Security, but chose to work. The Department of Rehabilitation is not a perfect agency but they DO turn people with disabilities into taxpayers. We should all support them.
Another agency worthy of your support is Tri-County Independent Living, which is having its seventh annual disabilities expo on Friday from 10am to 3pm in the Vickers Building at Redwood Acres, where many of the local organizations offering choices to people with disabilities will be present, including HTA which will be bringing a bus to demonstrate their accommodations and services. Admission is free. Finally, the next day, Saturday, the Humboldt County Library is holding a Reading Fair to familiarize low-vision and blind patrons with a range of equipment to help with reading. The library has a loan closet which offers an opportunity to try equipment before making expensive purchases. The Fair is from 1pm to 3pm Saturday. Show up! You just might learn something.
One thing I learned in my time at Rehab is that people with disabilities appreciate having a job, because it’s hard for them to get one. The next time someone from DOR, EDD, HCOE or any of the other agencies that work with people with disabilities approaches you, please consider giving people with disabilities a chance. You won’t be sorry.