GENESEE COUNTY (WJRT) -
(05/14/14) - While the overall unemployment rate in Michigan may be going down, a local group says that's not good enough - and they're hoping to change a trend in today's workforce.
In Michigan, 73 percent of working age people with disabilities are unemployed - but that doesn't mean they aren't qualified for the jobs.
Forty percent of them have college degrees. "Just in Genesee County alone, there are 28,000 working age people with a disability, who are not working," said Mike Zelley, of the Disability Works Committee. "What's wrong with this picture?"
Zelley didn't have to fight to go back to work when an accident put him in a wheelchair 35 years ago. He had high level job at a bank holding company - and he was lucky. But others are not.
The numbers speak for themselves.
"What you see in the market today is that a lot of people are overlooking people with disabilities because there is a fear or this stigma," said Jeanie Stone, vice president of Trijicon, Inc.
The Flint and Genesee Chamber of Commerce is working to change that.
"We are out there to dispel myths and connect people with disabilities to the business community," said Heather Kale, of the Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce.
They brought local business owners together with executives, like Jeanie Stone.
"The employees with disabilities in our organization are at work every day, very dedicated, they had to fight to get those jobs," Stone said.
Stone and others who have looked past the stigma can now share their success stories and dispel myths with the truth. "Study after study has shown they are more dependable, loyal, they actually cost less because they take less time off and their healthcare costs are not as expensive as other employees," Zelley said.
New technology that accommodates people with disabilities has also helped many to enter the workforce.