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Project Ability Summit Calls on Business to Build Disability-Inclusive Workplaces

Last Friday, the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce 2018 Chairman Shaun Kennedy kicked-off the Project Ability Summit alongside Gordon Hartman, founder and CEO of Morgan’s Wonderland, Inspiration Island and the Gordon Hartman Foundation.  Kennedy welcomed more than 100 attendees to the first-of-its-kind event by giving an overview of his signature initiative, increasing employment opportunities for individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities (IDD).

Among his first actions as Chairman, Kennedy launched the Project Ability Task Force to investigate the reasons keeping business from hiring people with IDD.  The group, composed of representatives from Bank of America, H-E-B, Whataburger, SA Works, Unicorn Centers, PCSI, Morgan’s Wonderland, the San Antonio Lighthouse for the Blind and the Chamber, honed in on the communication and knowledge exchange gap between employers, government agencies that offer support and training for businesses and individuals with IDD, and school district and higher education transition services staff.

The summit convened a cross-section of the aforementioned groups with the aim of increasing awareness among the business community about the benefits of actively recruiting members of the IDD community and sparking a productive conversation about how businesses can incorporate disability-inclusiveness into their recruitment efforts.

Jenn Byron Ross, H-E-B; Lupita Corbeil, Den-TX; Ray Carvajal, Carvajal Pharmacy; and Darryl Cline, Frozen Beverage Dispensers, shared first-hand experiences of the benefits and value of having people with IDD on their teams. Each presenter spoke of the loyalty, high quality, reliability, and morale boosting qualities employees with IDD have brought to their companies.  They also addressed their collaboration with organizations like the Unicorn Centers that assists businesses with identifying job candidates and utilizes job coaches that support both the individual with IDD through their transition into the workplace and the supervisor with navigating reasonable accommodations, ways to approach job performance issues, and cultivating a disability-inclusive work environment.

Before breaking into small roundtable discussions, attendees heard from a panel composed of individuals from Workforce Solutions Alamo, AACOG, Region 20 and Texas Workforce Solutions-Vocational Rehabilitation about the array of support each agency offers to businesses seeking to hire people with IDD.  The panelists also addressed the programs and trainings that people with IDD go through to assess their skills and become ready to successfully join the workforce.

The Summit culminated with Kennedy announcing the launch of a B2B Disability Consortium.  Founding members of the consortium, Bank of America, Dykema PLLC, Frozen Beverage Dispensers, H-E-B, Texas Capital Bank & Whataburger will lead an ongoing discussion group for like-minded employers to gain tangible strategies around operationalizing disability hiring initiatives from business and HR perspectives.

The consortium will consist of business leaders in the private/public sector who are committed to the mission of workforce inclusion by widening their own disability workforce. Specific leaders of interest are those who are heavily involved in the business operations of talent acquisition and hiring, as well as other HR leaders.  For more information about the B2B Disability Consortium, email: projectability@sachamber.org

Watch KENS5’s story about Project Ability.

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