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More people with disabilities are employed than ever before, but there’s still a long way to go

October is National Disabilities Employment Awareness Month
morgan hickman.jpg
Posted at 7:59 AM, Oct 14, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-14 10:57:57-04

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INDIANAPOLIS — For many, a disability is a hurdle they have to overcome.

Earlier this year, we told you about the Erskine Green Training Institute that was started by the Arc of Indiana. Its mission is to provide opportunities for post secondary vocational training for people with disabilities that empower and lead to meaningful employment.

RTV6’s Meredith Barack revisited the organization, as October is National Disabilities Employment Awareness Month.

READ |Muncie-based program urging employers to hire more people with disabilities |

One success story can be found inside a kitchen at the IU Simon Cancer Center where an Erskine Green graduate is not only thriving but enjoying his newfound independence.

“Whenever I first get in, I usually will make breakfast, so I’ll make pancakes, French toast, waffles,” Morgan Hickman trails off as he prepares even more food.

While he’s feeding patients and their families, he’s also savoring the life he’s created for himself.

“It’s a great experience if you’re living on your own because it gives you that sense of independence, and then getting the job at IU Health, that has always been something I’ve wanted to do because it’s such a great place to work and you get all the experiences you need,” Hickman explains.

It’s a lifestyle he credits to the Erskine Green Training Institute, where he learned work and life skills necessary to succeed.

“Erskine Green was a good fit for me because it was able to help me get through communications, socializing, and just being able to get over that, and those hurdles helped me out to where I am today.”

Hickman is one of the lucky ones. The unemployment rate for people with disabilities has been at about 80% for the last two decades.

“I think overall, when people hear the word disability, individuals have a very limited experience with those who have a disability, or maybe they do have some experience, but it was more extreme cases. So, when they hear, ‘hire somebody with a disability,’ they think of that one experience that they had, and it scares them,” explains Megan Stevenson, director of Erskine Green.

The staff at Erskine Green is working tirelessly to change those opinions and statistics.

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“Students are finding employment, but number two is that they are keeping employment, and so our data is showing that the skills that students are learning are allowing them to be successful,” Stevenson explains.

While more people with disabilities are employed than ever before, there’s still a great need for employers to get on board with the progressive trend.

“My advice would be, don’t judge a book by its cover. Always be willing to hire because you never know what they’re going to be able to accomplish, and that just makes you look better as a company for hiring people with disabilities,” Hickman concludes.

If you know someone who could benefit from the training Erskine Green offers, or you’re an employer looking to hire Erskine Green grads, click here.

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