Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Working with an Able Spirit; More Businesses Are Using Government Programs to Hire Workers with Disabilities

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Working with an Able Spirit; More Businesses Are Using Government Programs to Hire Workers with Disabilities

Article excerpt

Byline: JOSH GORE

Shannon Mclaughlin treasures her two Persian cats. She works four days a week at Mandarin Veterinary Clinic, mainly filing paperwork. Now, after eight years at the clinic, the 36-year-old recently learned how to use the office computer. For fun, she participates in a karate class on Wednesday nights.

It's hard to tell while watching her work, but Mclaughlin was born with cerebral palsy, a series of disorders that changes her speech and makes her crouch over instead of sitting upright.

It has also made her a very quiet person, said Sherri Hall, lead nurse at the clinic, who has worked closely with Mclaughlin for six years.

"Filing is not an easy job," Hall said.

Mclaughlin can work only three hours per day, has limited endurance and can walk for only short periods of time. Cerebral palsy made high school difficult for her; she graduated by taking Exceptional Student Education classes.

But Shannon Mclaughlin is different from most in her condition in that she has a job.

She is one of 386,116 people with a disability employed in Florida last year. In Duval County, there were 25,955 out of 395,544 workers, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey.

The unemployment rate for these workers is about 60 percent, said Melanie Etters, spokeswoman for the Florida Agency for Persons with Disabilities.

But more than small veterinary clinics, larger companies are also joining the trend of hiring the disabled.

Walgreens is one of the companies taking big steps to accommodate workers with disabilities. People like Randy Lewis, senior vice president for supply chain management for Walgreens nationally, are making it happen.

One of Lewis' major accomplishments was adding a distribution center in Anderson, S.C., where 37 percent of the center's workforce has some type of disability, he said.

Getting hired is very difficult for people with disabilities because employers are afraid to take a chance, he said. …

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