Janesville76.6°

Disabled are often overlooked

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JAMES P. LEUTE
October 8, 2007
— True or false?

- Hiring employees with disabilities increases workers’ compensation insurance rates.


- Employees with disabilities have a higher absentee rate than employees without disabilities.


- Persons with disabilities are inspirational, courageous, and brave for being able to overcome their disability.


If you’re an employer and you answered true to any of the above, Community Solutions of Wisconsin wants to set you straight.


That’s because the correct response to any of the statements above is “false.”


In business for a little more than two years, the Janesville-based Community Solutions is trying to get the word out to area employers that hiring those with disabilities needn’t present any more challenge than hiring able-bodied workers.


“Sometimes when you say you work with people with disabilities, you run into people who have stereotypes,” said Ken Denio, who owns Community Solutions with his wife, Alyson. “Sometimes they don’t think they’re capable of working.


“But the fact is that they have all the physical capabilities to work. It’s our job to help them find employers that have jobs that fit with any restrictions they might have.”


Community Solutions tries to link employers and workers with disabilities in Rock, Green, Dane, Jefferson and Walworth counties.


The for-profit Community Solutions is different than other organizations that serve the area that are typically sheltered workshops where people with disabilities go to work on contracted projects.


Community Solutions, which runs its Janesville office out of the Rock County Job Center, help workers with disabilities gets jobs in their communities. For that to happen, the Denios must knock on a lot of employers’ doors to spread the word about an able but often overlooked work force.


“For us, it’s more than just putting someone in a job,” Denio said. “We want that person to enjoy the job and we want the employers to be happy. If that happens, everybody has a better chance of succeeding.”


Community Solutions works with individuals referred by the state’s Division of Vocational Rehabilitation. The list of disabilities is extensive and can range from arthritis to quadriplegia, a back injury to a brain injury or diabetes to heart disease.


Clients are prescreened and receive workplace coaching and training. The company provides on-the-job support, as well as long-term follow up to make sure the placement is working for the employee and the employer.


Hiring people with disabilities can result in tax credits and wage offsets for employers, Denio said.


Any job search is customized the potential worker, who when placed will at least make minimum wage.


“Some of the people we’ve helped are making a whole lot more than we are,” Denio said. “Some of our placements have been people with master’s degrees.”


Each year, Community Solutions works with about 200 clients. Denio said the company’s placement is “awesome.


“We have to keep working hard to get the word out there that we are here,” he said. “The employers that know us know we provide a wonderful service.”


John Roherty of CK Grill & Bar in Janesville said he’s had a positive experience with employees placed by Community Solutions. He currently employs two people with disabilities who work floor maintenance and wash dishes.


“They’re really good people to work with,” Roherty said of the Denios. “The supervisors are always here making sure everything is going OK. In the restaurant business, we have certain regulations to follow, and they’re always right on top of that with the employees.”


Mark Johnson of Kealey Pharmacy and Homecare Services in Janesville said he recently hired two workers, one from Community Solutions and one from Riverfront.


“I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get into this because I though it was a charitable effort to give something back to the community,” he said. “But both are working out pretty well, and we’re no longer doing this because it was a charitable move. We’re doing it because we’ve got two productive employees.”


Johnson said Community Solutions provided a coach for the employee who spent the first couple of weeks on the job.


“They did an excellent job matching up the employee with what we were looking for and making sure that person understood the requirements of the job.”



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