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Sacramento-area job fair for people with disabilities aims to improve employment rate

Sacramento Bee - 10/18/2023

A first-of-its-kind employment event, connecting people in the Sacramento area with disabilities with companies in serious need of willing employees during a difficult labor market, begins Wednesday.

The I Am Able Disability job fair will begin 10 a.m. at the Officers Club at McClellan Park. It runs through 2 p.m.

The event has been years in the making, said Jeff Dern, CEO of PRIDE Industries, a Roseville-based company specializing in employment assistance for people with barriers.

“We were wanting to be innovative when connecting employers with people with disabilities,” he said. “Most people think it’s a great idea but don’t know where to start.”

PRIDE has invited more than 20 companies to meet job seekers, including Amazon, Sacramento State, Siemens and Golden 1 Credit Union.

Dern said the job fair is equal parts helping those with disabilities find employment as well as educating employers about appropriate accommodations for their prospective employees.

“Reasonable accommodations don’t have to be these expensive, grandiose things,” said Michael McCullough, workforce inclusion manager at PRIDE Industries. “They can be like a hybrid work schedule, raising a desk so a wheelchair can fit underneath, or how to accommodate a K-9 companion.”

“There’s going to be hundreds of skilled and capable people with disabilities who are looking for an employer to support them and these are some of the best workers they can hire,” Dern said.

Employers will be looking to fill jobs such as bank tellers, information technology specialists, accountants, court reporters, mortgage loan officers, branch managers and bus drivers.

The job fair is not just for people with disabilities; it’s also designed by people with disabilities.

McCullough, who uses a wheelchair, helped plan the accessibility of the job fair, he said in an interview, to make sure job seekers would be comfortable in this setting.

PRIDE Industries employees “across the spectrum of disabilities” helped plan the event, he said. The aisles are wide enough for wheelchair and K-9 access. Braille is available, as well as American Sign Language and Spanish interpreters.

There is also a designated spot for K-9 companions to use the bathroom.

Benefit planners from PRIDE Industries will also be in attendance to help job seekers evaluate if a job would negatively affect their Social Security or disability payments.

“If someone is scared about going back to work or they don’t want to get hurt financially, just show up,” McCullough said. “Even if you’re not sure you want to apply for a job, just show up. We’re glad to help and happy to answer questions. It’s about baby steps.”

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