If Bonnie Cronin had her way, all Howard County employers would ‘think beyond the label’ when recruiting new workers. The Arc’s Director of Employment Services, Cronin is quick to list the benefits of hiring people with developmental disabilities.
One, she says, is tapping into “an underutilized pool of workers who are talent-qualified and capable individuals. They’re competent,” she says, “and they’re enthusiastic and loyal.”
Other benefits are increased company productivity and improved worker retention, Cronin says. “And hiring people with disabilities enhances workforce diversity.”
But to Cronin, thinking beyond the label means more than hiring people with disabilities. “When we think of individuals with developmental disabilities in the workforce, we think of store courtesy clerks,” she says. “But not everyone wants to be a store courtesy clerk, and people with disabilities can do so many other kinds of jobs.”
Over the years, The Arc has placed people in a variety of positions, including animal care, childcare, food demonstration, packaging and landscaping. Some individuals who receive services from The Arc are self-employed.
“We value the relationships we have with the businesses we work with,” Cronin says. “We’ve found that one of the greatest benefits of hiring a person with a developmental disability is the friendship and long-term relationship that can develop between employer and employee.”