Employment conference seeks to help people with disabilities get jobs

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GREAT BEND, Kan. (KSNW) — Nationwide, we’re seeing employment for people with disabilities are low. However, agencies in Central Kansas are trying to change that.

On Thursday in Great Bend, over a dozen people attended a disability employment conference, where they learned skills to be successful in the workplace and how to be confident about their disabilities.

“With people with disabilities, like people in wheelchairs, they should be able to get a job in the community too,” said Ronnie Lewis, a conference participant.

The conference was hosted by three social service organizations — Sunflower Diversified Services, Rosewood Services and The Center for Counseling and Consultation.

The Kansas Youth Empowerment Academy had two speakers, both blind, talk about jobs — which included how and when to disclose a disability.

“We don’t suggest you share your disability on the application,” explained Julia Connellis.

The speakers talked about respect and timeliness — even how to properly shake a potential employer’s hand.

The goal of the conference is to teach life and work skills that’ll help them be marketable to employers.

“Sometimes we do have employers call out and say, ‘Hey, we have a need for employees,'” said Vicki Richardson, the employment specialist at Sunflower.

Agencies said Great Bend is seeing high numbers in employment for people with disabilities. In the past five years, about 150 people have been hired by local businesses.

“They’re willing to accommodate and that they enjoy working with people with disabilities, and you do see that a lot,” said Frankie Pelster, employment specialist for Rosewood Services.

Some of those businesses received an award for helping people get into the workforce.

Participants said they have upcoming job interviews, so they’re excited to put all the skills they learned into play.