Jeff Angelo of WHO Radio in Des Moines interviewed Everyone at Work’s Kyle Duarte to talk about the group’s upcoming event on August 14 and 15, 2019. A transcript and audio of the interview are below.
Jeff Angelo: Yesterday, the governor on this program said there are over 80,000 open jobs in Iowa. That means everyone that wants to work can work, and that means targeting some populations that normally uh, they’re the first populations hurt when there’s an economic downturn. Now there is opportunity for these populations. There’s a group now called Everyone at Work, Everyone at Work that’s going to have an inaugural event in Iowa and it is seeking to connect employers with ready and able workers with disabilities. The founder of this organization is Kyle Duarte and he is on the WHO radio newsmakers line. Kyle, welcome to WHO radio in Des Moines and good morning.
Kyle Duarte: Hi there, Jeff. It’s great to be on the air. Thanks for having me.
Jeff Angelo: Tell me first of all about the mission of your group and how will it work?
Kyle Duarte: Yeah, so our group is a nonprofit organization that is looking to connect people with disabilities to jobs that are out in the workforce. You know, like you said, there are 80,000 jobs in Iowa that are going unfilled. A lot of those are in the manufacturing and trade sectors, and people with disabilities have often been overlooked. You know, since the Americans with Disabilities Act passed in the early nineties, we really haven’t moved the needle on employment among people with disabilities. So we’re an organization that is founded by people with disabilities that wants to finally make that a reality for people with disabilities across America, to have jobs that are not just, you know, hourly jobs without benefits, but that are jobs that will take them through a lasting career and into retirement.
Jeff Angelo: So Kyle, you’re planning an Iowa event. Tell me about that.
Kyle Duarte: Yeah, so we are partnering with the Harkin Institute at Drake University and as you know, Senator Harkin focused a lot on community engagement and public policy, but not only that, the rights of people with disabilities. So they’ve been a great champion for us. And Iowa is really the perfect place to get started. As we all know, 2.3%, the lowest unemployment rate in the country and a lot of jobs in manufacturing and trade industries that traditionally have a strong on-the-job training component. So for people who have been out of the workforce or who are simply unemployed, it’s a great way to find those folks and get them into these jobs quickly so that the economy can continue to grow.
Jeff Angelo: I was surprised Kyle, when you send me information about your group, this number surprised me. You’re saying that in the deaf and other communities with disabilities, unemployment currently exceeds 50% – 50%. What is the issue here?
Kyle Duarte: Yeah, so that’s an unemployment and non-participation figure. It’s really high. It’s, it’s always been at least double the numbers of people without disabilities. The issue is that people with disabilities are less targeted in general and specifically deaf people have the language difference at play as well. So, I think there’s also the question of whether employers are ready to welcome people with disabilities into the workforce. And I think that that’s one point that really helps us stand out as an organization. Not only are we helping to find the people with disabilities who aren’t in the workforce yet and get them connected to those employers, but we’re also offering consulting services to the employers to make them feel more at ease at welcoming people into their, into their places of employment. And for example, providing sign language interpreters for deaf people or providing ways of accessible routes for people who use wheelchairs. There’s a variety of easy accommodations that can be made in the workforce to bring in more people who are ready and able to work.
Jeff Angelo: Yeah. And Kyle you just said easy accommodations and there’s where I think maybe your challenge is and when you talk about you want to educate employers about how this would all work, they’re thinking that a person with a disability or a person that’s hearing impaired that’s just going to be really expensive and just too much of a hassle. Is that your huge challenge when you’re talking to employers about how they can hire these populations?
Kyle Duarte: Yeah, that’s right. And I think there is a little bit of fear among hiring officials especially because of, you know, just not knowing exactly how to accommodate people who have disabilities. But I think the thing to remember first and foremost is that people with disabilities are people, and they’ve lived with their disability oftentimes for their entire lives. So they know really well how to accommodate themselves in different places and the easiest way to find out how to accommodate a person with a disability to simply to ask. Another important thing to remember is that many accommodations are very cheap so they can be implemented quickly. They can usually – accommodations are somewhere in the $500-1,000 range. If you consider the amount of productivity that a person with a disability is going to do for a company, that’s a really good investment in the workforce. Now we also have other ways now through technology. For example, using interpretation over remote ways, over remote interpreting technology, and other ways to accommodate folks in the workforce that aren’t going to be cumbersome for the employer.
Jeff Angelo: That is Kyle Duarte, founder of the organization Everyone at Work. The initial work event taking place in August in Des Moines. Kyle, this is a great cause. Thanks for taking the time today and best wishes for you.
Kyle Duarte: Thanks Jeff. Really appreciate it.
Jeff Angelo: Yeah, this is part of a good economy. You keep hearing about these groups that are enjoying lower unemployment than ever, but I was shocked to hear that the disabled community still has an unemployment rate of over 50% and maybe breaking down some of these barriers are really, really going to help.