For many people, having a job can fill a myriad of needs ranging from the financial to the mental and social. Texoma Community Center staff came together with local and state officials Friday to help ensure those with mental and physical disabilities can find gainful employment.
Nearly 20 representatives from the center, state agencies and local organizations attended a seminar Friday aimed at educating representatives about employment for the disabled and dispelling myths that often hinder these individuals from seeking employment.
“Through employment, many of our clients will be able to work in a competitive environment where they can gain a sense of joy and pride in their work and a sense that they belong,” TCC Director of Employment Services Chrystal Hilburn said Friday. “Today is for staff and providers to learn how to get these clients jobs.”
Friday’s seminar covered multiple topics ranging from training course opportunities to information on billing for these services. Hilburn said this training session was requested by TCC to educate staff on procedures as it recently became a provider through the Texas Workforce Commission Vocational Rehabilitation Services program, formerly known as DARS.
Beyond the administrative aspects related to partnering with TWCVRS, Friday’s program was aimed at dispelling myths related to employment for the disabled, Hilburn said. As an example of this, Hilburn said many of the center’s clients mistakenly believe that they could lose disability benefits by taking a job. In reality, Hilburn said employment is possible and the details with regard to benefits are handled on a case-by-case basis based on income.
Among the representatives at Friday’s seminar was Monty Chamberlain, employment recruitment coordinator for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission in Austin. Another common myth is that those on disability are required to pursue employment through partner agencies, he said. Instead, Chamberlain said the process is voluntary and based on set goals for those who seek employment in a variety of fields.
As an example of the careers and fields many with disabilities seek, Chamberlain said there are many options in the service industry. However, as an example, if someone has an interest in computers, other opportunities in that field may be possible, he said.
“When we are talking about working, it is something we all want to be able to do,” he said. “They have the same desires we all have. There is no one-size-fits-all career path.”
Denison Independent School District Director of Special Education Lori May said many of her students prefer to pursue career paths that allow them to work with their hands. This has included positions in hospitality and other service-related fields.
“It also gives them an opportunity to be around others,” she said. “It makes them happy to belong and feel like a part of the community.”
May said she was attending Friday’s seminar to collect information that she can take back to local employers that could open doors to employment for her students. While some larger employers, including larger retailers and grocery stores have historically been supportive and have offered employment opportunities, May said she would like to increase awareness in smaller businesses.
“We do this to expose our students to what is available and expose employers to what our students have to offer,” she said.