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Workability program takes 'holistic' approach to find work for Southern Arizonans with disabilities

Posted at 10:26 PM, May 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-18 01:27:30-04

TUCSON, Ariz. — "We just want people to accomplish their dreams and to be included just like everybody."

That's the goal of the Workability program at United Cerebral Palsy of Southern Arizona.

Director of employment services at Workability, Vanessa Zuber says even though they work under UCPSA they actually serve people with all types of disabilities.

The program helps people enter or re-enter the workplace through job readiness training, basic work skills training, and job placements.

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The Workability team accomplishes this goal by providing specific training to each participant. They can learn everything from how to clock in and out to how to write a resume and cover letter.

Zuber says each program is tailored to the individual participating.

"Everybody has a journey," Zuber said. "There isn't a homogenized process. So everybody's journey is going to look different depending on what they want to do their level of experience -- how significant their disability is."

Based on that criteria, the Workability program can last anywhere from a couple of months to a couple of years.

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The end goal: to help Southern Arizonans with disabilities find a job with an employer who will benefit from their work.

It's an approach Zuber calls 'holistic."

"So we're doing -- How do you complete an application? How do you write a cover letter and a resume?" Zuber explained some of the training offered to participants of the program. She also spoke about how they work with employers to make sure the relationship benefits them as well. "We do job coaching. So we work with the employer and sort of model and work with the employer to find the best matches -- we want it to be win-win for the employer and the person we're supporting."

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Zuber says another part of the Workability program is teaching people to advocate for themselves and working with employers to make sure participants have the right accommodations.

It's a relationship that's meant to benefit everyone involved.

"This is such an untapped population... such a wealth of skills that we sometimes forget that we could be tapping into this workforce," Zuber said. "People with disabilities bring this whole other perspective to your workplace that you don't even think about that just brightens up and adds so much more diversity to what you're doing. I've also noticed that it actually brings more business to your company."

Zuber's advice to parents and job seekers is to start job readiness training early with gainful employment as an expected outcome.

"I feel in our experience the higher the expectation the person meets it every single time," Zuber said.

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Another piece of advice: Give people with disabilities the "dignity of risk."

Zuber emphasizes that it may not always be easy but people with disabilities deserve the same opportunities to possibly fail and lean that everyone else gets.

"We all learned -- everybody has to learn -- by making mistakes," Zuber said. "So your kiddo may bomb an interview ya know -- who hasn't? There's a chance that they might get fired from a job. There are lots of young people that get fired from jobs. You learn from your mistakes and start again."

Zuber said people with questions about her program should call Workability or visit their website, Instagram, or Facebook.

She says the program usually operates on a wait, so it may be a month or more from the first contact to the beginning of services.

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