LACEY - Four South Sound businesses were recognized Wednesday for employing people with disabilities, a demographic facing a nationwide jobless rate of 70 percent, a state official said.
The businesses were a McDonald’s off Yelm Highway, a Red Robin restaurant in Olympia, an entertainment center for children called Charlie’s Safari in Lacey, and The Coffee News, a weekly publication based in Olympia.
They were acknowledged with citations during a Thurston County Chamber of Commerce luncheon in Lacey put on by Morningside, a longtime Olympia nonprofit agency known for helping people with disabilities find jobs.
John Evans, a statewide vocational rehabilitation program administrator, addressed the lunchtime audience, urging businesses to consider hiring the disabled and to not overlook them as potential customers.
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“You hold the door to opportunity,” said Evans, who is hearing-impaired. “You open it or you don’t. We don’t succeed without you.”
He said that although some disabled adults are born and raised with a disability, statistics show that many become disabled after age 20 because of accidents or other factors. The result is that you might know a neighbor, a consumer or a chid who is disabled, he told the audience.
“It could well be you,” Evans said.
A big step in helping the disabled find more jobs or be acknowledged as consumers is overcoming people’s biases and misconceptions, he said.
“We have got to change that because it is costing us dearly as a society,” Evans said.
He added that disabled adults in the U.S. represent $1 trillion in aggregate spending power and $200 billion in discretionary spending.
“Remember the purchasing and spending power by embracing people in our communities with disabilities,” he said.
Michelle Tipton, 39, is developmentally disabled and has worked part time for three years at the McDonald’s that was recognized. Tipton was at the lunch forum with Amber Higgins, a first assistant manager at the McDonald’s, and Jane Mohr, a Morningside job coach who works with Tipton.
Higgins said Tipton was a “wonderful employee,” and Tipton, said she enjoys her job, especially her co-workers and her manager.
Mohr praised McDonald’s for accommodating and helping Tipton as well as setting goals for her. Tipton’s duties include keeping the restaurant lobby clean and cleaning and lining the trays, Higgins said.
Tipton is one of 49 employees at the Yelm Highway McDonald’s.
Rolf Boone: 360-754-5403