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Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities working harder than ever to get people hired

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Posted at 5:35 PM, Jun 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-17 18:35:39-04

Finding a job is difficult. Throw in a global pandemic and millions of people unemployed — even tougher. Now, add in the challenges of having disabilities.

“It’s just really impacted people a lot. I had several consumers contact me saying they were either fired period or they were laid off or businesses folded,” said Taniya George-Olds, a vocational rehabilitation counselor with the Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities, or OOD.

The state agency has been around for 50 years, working to help individuals with disabilities get and maintain employment.

“We help individuals with physical disabilities, mental health, emotional health, maybe sensory issues,” George-Olds said.

Recently, they’ve worked harder than ever before to get people to work during the pandemic.

Over the last 13 weeks, OOD has helped place 788 Ohioans into jobs like customer service, food prep, stocking, and more.

And they do it by offering services that are specific to each situation.

People are teamed up with job coaches who go along with them to work, help them get down routines and skills to be comfortable and successful.

They also help with resumes and role-playing for interviews.

All of that is what 22-year-old Kristen Petro thinks helped her land her first full-time job with benefits.

“We talked about my interests and she helped me narrow down my job search and how to apply for a job,” Petro said. “I found Natural Essentials, I applied and I’m working there now!”

Petro said the job, which she’s been at for two months now, is providing more than just a paycheck.

It’s given her independence and confidence she never had before.

“I’m very grateful because I know how much the world is suffering right now and I’m very glad to be in a position where I can help others by providing what they need — which, in our case right now, is a bunch of hand sanitizer!” Petro said.

Petro works on an assembly line and packs bottles into boxes to get them shipped out to all of us who need it.

“Always follow your heart, follow your dream. Even though I’m high functioning with autism, I don’t really see that as who I am entirely.”

The services and job coaches at OOD are completely free and available to anyone who needs them.

To sign up, just head to their website, and click on “What is OOD” — then find your county and call the office closest to you to set up an intake appointment.

OOD services all 88 counties in Ohio.

This story is part of The Rebound: Northeast Ohio, News 5's initiative to help people through the financial impact of the coronavirus by offering one place to go for information on everything available to help and how to access it. We're providing resources on:

Getting Back to Work - Learn about the latest job openings, how to file for benefits and succeed in the job market.

Making Ends Meet - Find help on topics from rent to food to new belt-tightening techniques.

Managing the Stress - Feeling isolated or frustrated? Learn ways to connect with people virtually, get counseling or manage your stress.

Doing What's Right - Keep track of the way people are spending your tax dollars and treating your community.

Have the 5 On Your Side Investigators confront your issue. Click Here.

Reopening Ohio
Gov. Mike DeWine and the State of Ohio have established a plan to begin reopening Ohio businesses starting May 1. Below is a timeline of the businesses allowed to reopen.

May 1: Medical care – non-essential surgeries and procedures that do not require an overnight stay will be allowed beginning May 1.
May 4: Manufacturing, distribution and construction businesses that were ordered to cease activities may reopen on May 4, as well as general office environments.
May 12: Retail establishments and facilities will be allowed to reopen on May 12.
May 15: Salons, barbershops, day spas, tanning facilities, massage parlors, tattoo parlors and piercing businesses. Restaurants will be allowed to serve patrons on outdoor patios. More details here.
May 21: Restaurants and bars will be allowed to reopen for dine-in service. Read more here. Campgrounds will be allowed to reopen. Read more here.
May 22: Horse racing will be allowed to resume, with no spectators. Casinos and Racinos are not included in the reopening. Read more here.
May 26: Gyms, fitness centers, regulated pools, recreation centers and studios will be allowed to reopen, with new requirements. Non-contact and limited-contact sports leagues, such as golf, baseball and tennis will be allowed to resume. BMVs across Ohio will reopen, but government officials encourage citizens to utilize the BMVs online services when possible. Read more here.
May 31: Day care centers will be able to reopen in Ohio. Read more about the plan to reopen day cares here. Day camps and summer camps will also be allowed to operate. Details on that here.

While these announced reopenings encompass the majority of the businesses, agencies and events closed and canceled by the state's orders, the governor has not yet made an annoucements on when K-12 schools in the state will reopen, nor when places of public amusement, such as theme parks, gambling businesses, skating rinks, movie theaters, and others will be allowed to reopen. See a full list of indoor and outdoor places that remain closed here.

Click here for more details on the state's "Responsible RestartOhio" plan.