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Workers with disabilities help hospitals help patients

#RespectTheAbility Campaign: Spotlight on Project SEARCH

Workers with disabilities help hospitals help patients

Project SEARCH intern Anthony Telesford is all smiles while working in the kitchen at Montefiore New Rochelle

Project SEARCH intern Anthony Telesford is all smiles while working in the kitchen at Montefiore New Rochelle (photo credit POSITIVE EXPOSURE)

Anthony Telesford works in the kitchen of Montefiore New Rochelle hospital with his co- worker Jennifer Dacres, cleaning dishes, collecting trays, and assisting their other co-workers in other kitchen and meal preparatory tasks. The two consider themselves good friends, and can often be seen playfully cracking jokes throughout the workday. Jennifer praises Anthony’s work ethic, and speaks highly of the contributions he’s made as a fellow employee at Montefiore New Rochelle.

Anthony is a part of Project SEARCH, a program that allows young adults with developmental disabilities to cultivate a set of skills that they can use in the workforce. But Jennifer doesn’t see the program as a part of who Anthony is as a worker, or a person.

“He is a regular worker,” said Dacres. “We work hard, he works hard. We don’t baby him. He does the same exact work as we do. He is just a regular employee here, and he is a friend.”

Project SEARCH intern Anthony Telesford ready for another day on the job in the kitchen at Montefiore New Rochelle (photo credit POSITIVE EXPOSURE)

Project SEARCH intern Anthony Telesford ready for another day on the job in the kitchen at Montefiore New Rochelle (photo credit POSITIVE EXPOSURE)

At Montefiore New Rochelle and at other hospitals around the county, Project SEARCH interns work throughout the hospital, assisting the regularly employed staff in any task they need help fulfilling. Participation in the internship provides employers with great talent and the interns are compensated with real life work-experience they can take with them into the competitive employment market. These employers get a first view of the talent to hire from a group they may not have originally considered, and they are also under no obligation to hire the interns after the program has ended, although many do. It is a win-win situation. Another direct result from the SEARCH interns being a part of the staff at Montefiore New Rochelle: employee morale has been significantly boosted.

“They’re great at their jobs,” says Josephine Catalano, volunteer coordinator at Montefiore New Rochelle. “They do all different things, not just the tasks for their jobs, but all different kinds of tasks that are a tremendous help to us. They learn the importance of attendance, signing in, understanding the rules, proper work dress code, etc. We all benefit from the interns being here. We all feel an extra sense of pride in our work, thanks to them. We are all proud to be part of such a groundbreaking program. All companies would benefit from having a program like this.”

The results at Montefiore New Rochelle have been spectacular. The SEARCH interns are a fully integrated part of the staff. They are professional, punctual, kind to the patients – overall, the ideal employees. In the past month, two former SEARCH interns have been hired as full time employees in the New Rochelle community, based off of their strong work ethic exhibited at Montefiore.

Prior to the passage of Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990, 70% of adults with disabilities were outside of the workforce. Even after passing the ADA, which aims to establish a clear and comprehensive prohibition of discrimination on the basis of disability, this percentage has not changed. Millions of working age adults with disabilities that do not enter the workforce – more than 9 million – rely on government-funded benefits, which cost taxpayers, on average, more than $300,000 over the course of their lifetime. Project SEARCH prepares these young adults for competitive employment so that they can be self- sufficient and save taxpayer dollars.

“How fast these young adults grow every day surprises me,” said Damon Ragin who has been with Project SEARCH for a year and currently works with Telesford at Montefiore New Rochelle. “This program is a great way to show that people with disabilities have the same skill level as anyone else. These are the people employers should look to hire. They are extremely hard working and extremely loyal.”

Under the hashtag #RespectTheAbility, POSTIVE EXPOSURE and RespectAbilityUSA hope to spread the word about Project SEARCH, and the new candidate pool they are cultivating for permanent employment. #RespectTheAbility is a campaign that focuses on how hiring people with disabilities can make organizations stronger and more successful. The campaign highlights the benefits to employers that look beyond the disability and imagine the possibility when hiring talented employees with disabilities.

#RespectTheAbility Success Stories

Download our free toolkit, “Disability Employment First Planning Tool,” for more information.


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