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Agency Urges Hiring More ND Workers with Disabilities

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Some North Dakota employers are being honored this week for welcoming people living with disabilities into their workforce. They say these workers bring a lot to the table, and many have the ability to work from home. (Adobe Stock)
Some North Dakota employers are being honored this week for welcoming people living with disabilities into their workforce. They say these workers bring a lot to the table, and many have the ability to work from home. (Adobe Stock)
December 2, 2020

MINOT, N.D. - In North Dakota, a state agency worries that people with disabilities are being overlooked in a tight job market, as business restrictions from the pandemic create hardships for many companies. This week, the state is honoring some of the businesses focusing on inclusive hiring.

The Dakota Estates Retirement Center and Scheels of Minot have received awards for their efforts to give people with disabilities opportunities to thrive in the workforce.

Brenda Vennes, Minot and Williston region business services specialist with the state's Vocational Rehabilitation Division, said oftentimes, companies lack awareness of what the right individuals can do for them.

"They're usually very dependable," said Vennes. "They want to work. They have unique talents and skill sets."

She said adding people with disabilities to the payroll can play a big role in improving workplace culture.

This spring, one study estimated one million U.S. workers living with disabilities had lost their jobs because of the pandemic.

The report noted that because they're usually hired last, these workers often see layoffs first. And the report found many workers with disabilities are in the retail and hospitality sectors, both of which have been hit hard by the crisis.

Vennes said that's why it's important that this group of workers isn't always the first budget casualty in a downturn. In North Dakota, she said they face other barriers as well, such as lack of transportation to their jobs.

"There aren't bus routes where they live, or they don't have anybody that drives to town at the same time they need to come to town," said Vennes.

But she said North Dakota is making strides in boosting transportation in some rural areas, allowing for greater mobility.

In the most recent fiscal year, the program Vennes works with matched more than 500 North Dakotans with disabilities with positive employment outcomes.

Mike Moen, Public News Service - ND