Landing a job in a competitive economy can already be tough, but try doing it without the ability to hear.
In honor of National Employment Disability Awareness Month, Easterseals New Jersey, a nonprofit job training program for people with disabilities, held a ribbon cutting for its brand new office in Woodbury.
The site will serve as a home base to provide employment training services and opportunities for the deaf, hard of hearing, low-vision and blind.
“The disability unemployment rate is double than those without disabilities. So we have set up different retail stations to cross train them. We’ve set up customer service stations to help them understand how to deal with other customers,” said Daniela Bardesio, director of community employment at Easterseals New Jersey.
Client Cynthia Lewis says for years she struggled to feel confident applying for jobs because she’s deaf. The mom of four went through the job readiness program. Lewis is now in charge of inspecting medical equipment in a warehouse before it’s shipped out to hospitals.
“Because the company thinks, ‘Oh, there’s a person who’s deaf, what about fire alarms, forklifts?’ But I showed them — it’s easy. Just waving at me or if you see me coming, stop,” she said.
In addition to job training, the center also offers assistive technology devices. The program is currently accepting applicants 14 years old and up. Easterseals NJ President and CEO Brian Fitzgerald says he hopes to expand the program and services for people with disabilities to more locations in the central part of the state.