Anthony Lake has been a participant in Frazer’s Adult Services for almost ten years, and for two of those years, he has also been a Frazer employee.
Anthony works in the Child Development Program assisting Kitchen Manager Velecia Wright. “I can depend on Anthony every day. He’s on time, he does his job,” says Velecia, or Ms. V, as she is known at Frazer. “He’s a very hard worker. Once he learns how to do something, he comes in and goes right to where he needs to be. I love him.”
Although Anthony has participated in job skills training in the past, this is his first actual job with a competitive salary. His mother Lucy says, “Anthony looks forward to going to work. He enjoys helping people. It gives him a sense of pride that he has a job.”
As a Supported Employment service provider, Frazer Center works with businesses to help create perfect employment matches that are a win for both the employer and employee. Sometimes a job can be customized to match a job seeker’s skills. In Anthony’s case, Frazer had an existing position that needed to be filled, and Anthony fit the bill.
Initially, Anthony’s job coach worked alongside him to provide training and support. “Anthony learns by mimicking,” says Lucy. “Once he gets a routine down, he is good at following through.” Now, although Anthony’s job coach is available on an as-needed basis, Anthony no longer requires the support. His confidence and initiative have grown since he started. “Before, if it wasn’t part of his routine, he wouldn’t do it,” says Employment Program Coordinator Unondus Walker. “But now, if he sees something that needs to be done, he just does it. You don't have to ask him.”
For Ms. V, hiring Anthony was no act of charity. “He’s there to help me out when I need it. I have developed a relationship with him. I don’t do anything different with Anthony. I listen to him and talk to him the way I talk to anyone.”
This is the kind of employment success that we at Frazer strive to create with other businesses throughout Atlanta. It’s also the kind of success we hope to see more and more of across the state, especially since Georgia is now an “Employment First” state.
In 2018, Governor Nathan Deal signed into law the Employment First Act, declaring that employment should be the first option for anyone who wants to work, regardless of disability. The law also declares that employees with and without disabilities should be integrated and interacting in all aspects of the job, and they should receive competitive salaries and benefits.
Passing the Employment First Act was a step in the right direction, but more needs to happen on a policy level for Georgia to actually BE an Employment First state.
Bill Payne, Director of Frazer’s Adult Services, is doing his part to help with that. Representing Frazer Center, Bill is one of several employment support providers who are convening with researchers from Advancing Employment, an organization “dedicated to building a community for inclusive employment in Georgia.”
These providers and researchers are discussing the obstacles that are built into the state system for employment support. They’re also creating a list of priorities for implementing state-wide changes, with the help of the policy experts at the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities.
The cohort is pushing for Georgia to be a “State as Model Employer.” In other words, if Georgia’s government agencies make a practice of hiring people with disabilities, then the state serves as a model, “leading the way for Chambers of Commerce to follow suit,” says Payne. “State legislators can talk to Chambers to promote, This is what Georgia’s policies are, this is what we do. We hire people because they’re capable, because it’s the right thing to do, because it’s good for business. Then Chambers can talk to businesses,” and together we create a sea change.
It’s not a quick fix. But each organization that makes a conscious shift to proactively hire people with disabilities adds a drop in the sea. Another organization, another drop. And so on.
It only makes sense for Frazer Center to hire people with disabilities. Anthony is a perfect match for his position. He loves getting a paycheck and the greater independence it gives him. He’s learning to manage his money, and he’s developing enriching work relationships.
Lucy Lake always knew her son had the potential. “Everybody may not see that at first, but I feel you have to give [people with disabilities] a chance. At the end of the day, it’s a win.”
If you are an employer interested in learning more about hiring people with disabilities, contact Bill Payne at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To learn more about Frazer Center’s Adult Services, VISIT HERE.
To learn more about the work of Advancing Employment, VISIT HERE.