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Governor’s Office: “We Can Never Do Enough”

Governor’s Office:  “We Can Never Do Enough”

Georgia COO Jim Lientz Encourages Business Executives to Consider Disability Hiring

ATLANTA, GA (November 4, 2008) – Although the State of Georgia has moved from 50th to 9th in new money allocated for people with developmental disabilities, Georgia Chief Operating Officer Jim Lientz told a crowd of over 100 business executives it is not enough.  Last Thursday the Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities (GCDD) and IHG (InterContinental Hotel Groups) held Making a Difference Discovery Day, an executive session to encourage Georgia businesses to hire people with disabilities and provide tangible benefits and resources for success.

“Although we’re proud of our accomplishments, we know we can always do more,” Lientz said as he addressed the gathering on behalf of Governor Sonny Perdue.

Speakers at the executive session offered motivation, ideas and techniques to increase diversity in the workplace and, specifically, hire people with disabilities.

“The best businesses in America have recognized the benefits of diversity.  When we bring people with disabilities into the workplace, we learn and become more compact.  Diversity makes companies better and attracts people to your business,” said Keynote Speaker Neil Romano, assistant secretary of the U.S. Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP).

Romano stated that 80% of students with developmental disabilities who are unemployed exiting high school will remain unemployed the rest of their lives.
“If you’re not doing anything, the company next to you will,” Romano said.  “They’ll do it well and you’ll be behind.  It begins with a change of attitude and mindset, a recognition that every human being has value and can bring something to the field.”

Speakers Angela Mackey (Walgreens), Christopher Fullagar (IHG) and Susie Rutkowski (Project SEARCH) shared tangible and specific examples of how hiring people with disabilities have made their companies stronger, more diverse and more inclusive.  Carolyn Cartwright (SunTrust Banks) said disability is just one dimension of diversity and explained how her company supports diverse hiring strategies through a dedicated disability resource center and by sponsoring National Disability Mentoring Day.  Kate Brady (Office of Developmental Disabilities – Georgia DHR) emphasized the importance of teaming with responsible experts to find qualified candidates.

Carmen Jones (Solutions Marketing Group) cited examples of companies which have realized marketing success and bottom line benefits from programs inclusive of people with disabilities:

  • BusinessWeek realized benefits from a series of installed assistive technologies (AT),
  • Toys R Us developed a special needs catalogue which increased sales, and
  • Microsoft initiated “Just In Time Training,” a program which trains team members and supports co-worker understanding as people with disabilities are hired.

In his welcoming remarks, GCDD Executive Director Eric Jacobson said, “We are not here to talk about charity.  Our goal for today is when you have an opening in your company, you’ll consider someone with a developmental disability.  If you leave here today and you take no action, we have not done our job and you’ll be - not right where you are - but moving backward.”

Thursday’s event included panelists Ruby Moore (Georgia Advocacy Office), Phil Chase (Georgia Association of Professionals in Supportive Employment), David Hale (American Association of People with Disabilities) and Richard Keeling (IRS) who discussed specific tools, resources and incentives available to businesses as well as people with disabilities to decrease unemployment of this segment of the workforce.  Unemployment among working age Americans with disabilities stands at a startling 75%, yet this demographic comprises a $3 trillion consumer market. 

Keeling offered information about tax benefits for businesses and individuals who hire people with disabilities including the Disabled Access Credit (a business receives credit for making its physical structure accessible), the Architectural Barrier Rule (encourages businesses to make accommodations for people with developmental disabilities), the Work Opportunity Credit (people, especially veterans, can deduct a portion of the first year’s wages), and the Earned Income Tax Credit (available for those who earn less than $40,000 per year).

Richard Warner, CEO of What’s Up Interactive and host of Georgia’s Business (GPB-TV), moderated the 8th Annual Making a Difference Discovery Day on Thursday, Oct. 30th at the Crowne Plaza Ravinia Hotel.  A live webcast of the event nearly doubled attendance.  GCDD sponsored the event, along with its corporate partners; IHG (InterContinental Hotels Group), Southern Company, Georgia Power and SunTrust Banks Inc. 

GCDD is a Federally-funded state agency that promotes independence, inclusion, integration, self-determination and productivity for Georgians with developmental disabilities so they can live, learn, work, play and worship where and how they choose.  A Developmental Disability is a chronic mental and/or physical disability that occurs before age 22 and is expected to last a lifetime.  It may require supports in three or more of the following life activities: self-care, language, learning, mobility, self-direction, independent living and economic
self-sufficiency.  Visit for more information.

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