CLEVELAND — The state of Ohio is home to roughly 1.6 million people with disabilities — and more than 870,000 of them are of working age.
Now, a unique partnership between employers and the state agency “Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities” is helping folks get to work.
OOD works with thousands of job seekers with disabilities and more than 500 employers across the state to provide training and disability and inclusion etiquette.
“It’s important because people with disabilities want to work. and people with disabilities contribute a lot to the work force and the community,” said Kristen Ballinger, Deputy Director of Employer and Innovation Services at OOD.
The new partnership — currently with Giant Eagle and Ohio State University — embeds a person in the company’s human resources department to offer guidance, connections and training right where and when it is needed.
Since it started in January, Ballinger said the program has proven to be immensely successful.
“Because they are hard workers, they stay on the job, the turnover rate is much lower so it is good for the bottom line of the business to hire individuals with disabilities,” Ballinger said.
More than 57 workers with disabilities have been hired at Giant Eagle stores across Northeast Ohio since the beginning of the year and dozens more already working at the grocery store chain have been assisted.
For 21-year-old Brevin Edwards, who works at the checkout at the Lyndhurst Giant Eagle, his first real job has been a chance to get out on his own — and a chance to show customers why that’s so important.
“It’s my first job, I was a little bit nervous at firs but I got used to it,” Brevin said, laughing as he greeted regulars every few minutes.
“Inclusion and diversity is something that is so important to us, who we are as a company. One of those things that we are passionate about,” said Jannah Jablonowski, spokesperson for Giant Eagle.
“Our differently-abled team members are some of our most passionate team members,” Jablonowski said. “You can tell they really love coming to work every day and they’re just dedicated to doing their job.”
The OOD’s partnership is part of a larger plan by Governor Mike DeWine to make Ohio a “disability inclusion” state — creating policies to make our state a model when it comes to individuals with disabilities.
This story is part of A Better Land , an ongoing series that investigates Northeast Ohio's deep-seated systemic problems. Additionally, it puts a spotlight on the community heroes fighting for positive change in Cleveland and throughout the region. If you have an idea for A Better Land story, tell us here .