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Filling a need Businesses finding hiring those with disabilities is good for population, productivity

Lisa Montalbano, business development manager of Employment Horizons.-(PHOTO BY AARON HOUSTON)

Bon Venture Services printed plenty of bulletins each week — and it had just as many inserts for those bulletins — but it had no one on staff available to combine the two.

“Seems simple, just having someone to put that extra page in our bulletin … but it’s something we really needed as a company that doesn’t have a machine to do that work,” said Mary Beth Piazza, a human resource professional at Bon Venture Services.

The Flanders-based church publication company turned to Employment Horizons, which helped facilitate the hiring of an individual with a disability for the job. And it returned to the organization for another two part-time employees when it expanded the operation.

“They’re great at the job,” Piazza said. “And around here their special need isn’t even a consideration. They’ve become just another part of the team.”

For a small business that doesn’t have a big HR department — or, in some cases, an HR department at all — it’s crucial to have organizations that ease any potential misgivings involved with hiring individuals with disabilities.

But it’s those uncertainties that these organizations hope to preemptively erase.

And so groups, such as Employment Horizons in Cedar Knolls, are both promoting a message and giving small business owners a hands-on experience with hiring from this untapped labor pool.

“Through (our job sampling) program, individuals with disabilities come in a business with a job coach and start doing work as if they were hired, with the understanding that they’re not employed yet,” said Lisa Montalbano, business development manager of Employment Horizons.

Grants from foundations pay that person’s wage while they do that job sample, which can last for multiple weeks. Then business owners can decide for themselves whether the individual fits the job.

Montalbano said her organization does around 80 placements annually during better years, half of which are with small businesses.

Besides the effect of a slow-to-rebound economy, there’s still much misinformation and vagueness about this population that lingers among business owners that Montalbano’s organization is having to confront to improve that rate.

Brett Johnson

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