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Ladders to accommodation.

Ladders to Success, a Projects With

Industry (PWI) program operated by the Ohio Restaurant Association (ORA) in Ohio and West Virginia, demonstrates the willingness of business to carry out the spirit and the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

After building partnerships between businesses in the hospitality industry and the offices and staff of the Ohio Rehabilitation Services Commission (ORSC), Bureau of Vocational Rehabilitation (BVR), and Bureau of Services for the Visually Impaired (BSVI), Ladders coordinates the resources of BVR and BSVI with business and compounds the strengths of all.

Basically a placement and training program, and often a transitioning program, Ladders to Success assists workers with limited functional abilities to acquire jobs, to train on the job, and to move into full-time, competitive employment. Business provides the jobs, training, salary, and benefits, while ORSC provides screening, referrals, training, placement, and follow-along services. Working together in this way since 1985, both have applied valuable and ingenious accommodations in many instances.

Bob Evans Farms, Inc., and ORSC became partners through [adders to Success in January 1991, when the company designated one store in Columbus as a training site and one employee as the trainer. Store managers throughout the district interviewed candidates and hired workers referred by ORSC. The hiring manager paid the new employee's wages and shared the cost of wages for the job trainer with ORSC. The new worker trained for 8 weeks and then went to work for the hiring manager.

Although managers were pleased to get their employees back fully trained, the company soon became aware of problems. Employees trained in one store and sent to another had difficulty learning new procedures and with leaving their friends and having to make new ones. Problems occurred for some in being far from home. Others had transportation problems. Some simply could not do a good job. Older employees and staff had problems accepting the new workers; staff orientation to the program was clearly needed.

Bob Evans suggested a major change in program design by asking that all its stores in the Central Ohio area become training sites and that the training of new employees be accomplished through a buddy system. The Ohio Rehabilitation Services Commission and the Ohio Restaurant Association, sponsors of Ladders to Success, agreed to these changes.

To support the redesigned program, Ladders staff arranged for special kinds of training, such as Windmills, which helps participants examine and modify common judgments about people with disabilities, and Training For Action, which explains program design and operation to program personnel from Bob Evans, BVR, and BSVI. Three sessions were delivered to store managers, staff, and "buddies" from 31 restaurants and to counselors, supervisors, and employer services specialists from ORSC area offices. A management team consisting of a Bob Evans corporate manager, a representative from rehabilitation, and a Ladders representative from the Ohio Restaurant Association was formed to direct the program.

Many of the problems cleared up. After job training, employees with disabilities continued work in the stores where they trained; most increased the number of hours they worked; and many became full-time employees. Fellow employees in the stores were accustomed to them and the new workers were accustomed to their fellow employees.

Bob Evans tailored Ladders to Success and its company for people with disabilities. The positive changes in program design caused countless smaller changes in company policies and practices. Managers and line supervisors took on new knowledge, methods, and values; they began accumulating and reporting new data; they accepted job coaches as part of their standard operations and sometimes as learning capacity specialists. In return, they had a pool of skilled, able employees for high turnover, hard-to-fill, essential jobs in the restaurant industry.

In 1985, McDonald's in Ohio established a partnership with the Ohio Rehabilitation Services Commission to hire and train people with severe disabilities for entry level jobs. McDonald's already had a hiring and training program--McJobs--for people with disabilities. The partners merged McJobs and Ladders, and the business began hiring and training people referred from the Ladders program.

This partnership brought in new and enriching elements to both programs. First, the McDonald's staff began more intensive interaction directly with vocational rehabilitation counselors and employer services specialists. Second, the Ladders-McJobs program began hiring and training workers with more severe disabilities. Attentive communication by both parties led to changes in daily operations that made the alliance work. McDonald's made room for additional trainers selected by ORSC for expertise in the areas of visual impairment and learning capacities and provided adaptive equipment (buzzers) for hearing impaired people and special catsup and mustard dispensers for people with cerebral palsy.

It is the goal of the Ladders-McJobs program to hire youths still in school so that, like other teenagers, they too may have jobs.

Other successes--less measurable, but nonetheless important--are the intrinsic benefits accrued to ORSC from this experience. For example, the agency acquires detailed knowledge of the needs and pressures of business and the host businesses gain an understanding of the values and sensitivities of vocational rehabilitation.

A more traditional application of Ladders to Success has taken place in several hotels in Ohio and West Virginia. In this model, a trainer-supervisor is hired and trained by the host business in such jobs as desk clerk, maid, laundry worker, and groundskeeper. The trainer-supervisor in turn participates in the screening and hiring of people with disabilities referred by ORSC. The trainer-supervisor trains new employees to do the quantity and quality of work required by the hotel. The trainer welcomes the new employees each morning, assigns the jobs, and shows the workers their duties and how best to accomplish them. After training, which can last anywhere from 3-6 months, depending upon abilities and complexity of the job, the new workers are ready for full-time, competitive employment. Trainees continue either working for the host business, or ORSC placement staff find positions for them with other employers in the community.

The trainer-supervisor is part of the hotel staff, attends management meetings, and acts as a staff supervisor as needed. The bond between the business and the rehabilitation agency is a close one. Problems receive prompt attention; solutions most often are prescribed in-house. Sometimes it is the private business which must make changes; at other times, rehabilitation officials have this function. Active dialogue between the partners encourages efficient and more effective solutions. In time, the mutual adaptations become part of the business routine and the hotel becomes a dependable and consistent training site.

However, program operation in the hotel industry also has its drawbacks: for example, there are the problems of seasonal off time and reduced hours, and there can be changes in ownership; all of these can exact a toll on the program.

Over the past 7 years, Ladders has operated in two hotels in Ohio and in the McLure House in Wheeling, West Virginia. The program has served people from all disability groups, including people who are blind or visually impaired; are deaf or hearing impaired; have amputations or orthopedic disabilities; or have cerebral palsy, mental illness, alcohol and/or drug addiction, mental retardation, epilepsy, neurological problems, learning disabilities, sickie cell anemia, arthritis, and heart and kidney diseases. Program participants are between 15 and 62 years of age; most (84 percent) are severely disabled (but 100 percent of the participants since March 1991 have been severely disabled); 54 percent are multiply disabled; and 66 percent have never worked before.

Since 1985, businesses in the Ladders program have hired and trained 570 workers, 377 of whom have completed the training programs and continued employment.

In this program, a wide base of support is available to help business solve problems encountered in accommodating the needs of workers with limited functional abilities. Ladders is designed as a three-tiered structure: at the local and corporate level the program is tied to the business and the community through the local BVR and BSVl offices and the education system; at the state level it is tied in with the area offices and the Ohio Rehabilitation Services Commission's central ofrice; and at the community level, a team is formed of the host business, site trainers (job coaches), local counselors, and placement staff of the community office of BVR.

Through designated liaisons and area managers, the program is tied into the area BVR office. Salaries for the job coaches and performance evaluations are most often managed through the area office and the business. All ORSC programs are funded, evaluated, and supported through contracts with the area offices of the Bureau of Vocational Rehabilitation and the central office of ORSC. Operational program management is supplied to the programs through a program director with the Ohio Restaurant Association.

The programs are supported by a Business Advisory Committee, which includes the executive board of the Ohio Restaurant Association, the president of one international trade union, secretary-treasurers of two local trade unions, human resource directors at McDonald's regional offices, hotel corporate staff, and corporate managers of Bob Evans Farms, Inc. Both the Ohio Hotel and Motel Association and the Ohio Restaurant Association have officially endorsed the programs.

The future of Ladders to Success looks good for several reasons.

Funding is one reason. Thanks to the Rehabilitation Services Administration, U.S. Department of Education, the programs received a 5-year Projects With Industry grant which will continue for the next 4 years. At the state level, additional financial support is provided by ORSC and the Ohio Restaurant Association.

Need is another reason. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that food preparation and service jobs will swell 37 percent by the year 2000. The National Restaurant Association predicts the industry will be short 1.1 million workers by the year 1995 if the industry continues to depend on the traditional work force. Turnover in the industry is high and the labor pool is shrinking.

Management strategy is another reason. The placement by the Ohio Rehabilitation Services Commission of program management within the Ohio Restaurant Association, a nonprofit organization, encourages impartial service to the needs of both business and rehabilitation. The third-party approach of impartiality and objective attention to the needs of both is likely to avoid some of the mistakes of the past which have affected one or both parties.

Ladders' strategy of coordinating the state vocational rehabilitation resources with business instead of competing against them ensures Ladders of a dependable place in the world of public service as well as private business.

The severity of disability now handled by ORSC has increased, which makes it difficult for Ladders to work; but, with industry's demonstrated willingness to accommodate the needs of special workers, the resources of rehabilitation engineering, steadily improving training techniques, and patience, these difficulties can be overcome.

Ladders has done much in Ohio to lead the hospitality industry into conformity with the Americans with Disabilities Act, especially in the area of breaking down psychological barriers and prejudices. Ladders has broken new ground in gaining the cooperation of unions and in establishing affiliations with trade associations. With an expansion of its Business Advisory Council to include other industries, the development of training, and an increase in job placement capability, Ladders can set the pace for other businesses in Ohio and neighboring states.

Ms. Downs is Executive Director of government programs for the Ohio Restaurant Association. She is also the director of Ladders to Success, the Projects With Industry program of the Ohio Rehabilitation Services Commission and Ohio Restaurant Association.
COPYRIGHT 1992 U.S. Rehabilitation Services Administration
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Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Projects with Industry program, Ladders to Success
Author:Downs, Ninia R.
Publication:American Rehabilitation
Date:Dec 22, 1992
Previous Article:Implications for vocational success for visually impaired users of adaptive equipment.
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