October 3, 2014
Written by Shaun Heasley
BEACH — Jeanette Sciulara had to wait until she was 50 to land her first job
and she isn't leaving anytime soon.
love my job. I want to work here for the rest of my life,” said Sciulara, 56,
who has cerebral palsy and tags items in the loss prevention department at
Kmart on International Speedway Boulevard.
with disabilities face an unemployment rate almost double that of the overall
labor force — 12.1 percent in July versus 6.3 percent for the general
population, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The recession
hurt many job seekers, but the disabled were affected particularly hard,
is among those who found jobs and remained employed through the downturn.
now, as the job market begins to pick up, advocates say they are seeing signs
that it's improving for the disabled, too.
working hard to improve employment opportunities for individuals with
disabilities,” said Melanie Etters, a spokesperson for the Tallahassee-based
Agency for Persons with Disabilities. Her agency received an additional
$500,000 in July to provide internships and on-the-job training to employed
people with disabilities statewide.
had a lot of people get laid off during the recession just like the rest of the
population,” she said.
the roughly 30,000 Floridians with intellectual disabilities served by her
agency, only 3,500 — or 11.6 percent — are currently employed, she said.
recession and weak job market affected agencies locally.
year, WORC Inc., a Daytona Beach nonprofit agency that serves disabled
Volusia-Flagler area residents, shut down its job-placement program and issued
layoffs in its job coaching department, citing a loss of government grants.
Other organizations serving the disabled had to scale back on their job placement
services because companies simply were not hiring.
Gussman, a job coach at The Arc of Volusia, said during the worst part of the
recession, the agency had one job coach trying to place people in jobs.
was really rough out there — I remember one year we placed one person the
entire year,” Gussman said.
tide is turning, he said. The Arc now has two job coaches and they are looking
to hire another.
have picked up definitely,” Gussman said, adding that Arc has placed 12 workers
in jobs this year.
Burnside, a 46-year-old with partial blindness, epilepsy, seizures and slight
cerebral palsy, was placed in a dish-washing position in March at the Steak 'n
Shake in Ormond Beach.
landed the position after a four-year job search on the free market, the term
used by the disabled for jobs outside of nonprofit organizations.
Burnside has three part-time jobs, including positions at The Arc Dove
Industries and the local chapter of the Agency for Persons with Disabilities.
wasn't easy, but I'm glad I found a place at Steak 'n Shake,” Burnside said,
adding that now he will have the money for some of his favorite activities:
square dancing, attending concerts and going to the races at Daytona
disabled sometimes face discrimination in the hiring process, but one of their
assets is a strong loyalty to their employers, said Etters with the Agency for
Persons with Disabilities. That description certainly fits Sciulara who works
at the Daytona Beach Kmart, her boss said.
is one of the most positive people here – she does everything with a smile on
her face,” said Charlie Byrd, the Kmart manager. “She's one of our best
said Sciulara has shown up for work every scheduled workday — two days a week,
four hours a day — on time and enthusiastic for the past six years. He said
Kmart makes a point to hire people with disabilities “because everyone deserves
a chance and the employees we have here (with disabilities) do such a great
said the Agency for Persons with Disabilities is making a larger effort to
educate companies on the tax benefits of hiring people with disabilities.
to Employ Florida, the Work Opportunity Tax Credit is a federal income tax
credit that can be claimed by employers who hire employees from one of nine
targeted groups, which includes Supplemental Security Income recipients.
a good thing that hiring is starting up again — but it's still way behind where
it should be,” she said.