My work puts me in front of the nicest people on the planet, an amazing group of folks who collectively comprise a too small percentage of working American adults. I am a job coach and job developer for adults with disabilities. When a person has requested to work through their case worker or brokerage, they are paired with a professional like myself. Someone who will help find them work and then help them to excel at it.

The State of Oregon has certified me to render those services to the residents of the Columbia River Gorge. More specifically, Wasco, Sherman, and Hood River counties. I do this in several ways. One way is, I help them to create awesome resumes and then send them throughout the labor market within the Gorge. My favorite approach, though, is to develop a relationship with managers and HR reps in the fields my clients would like to work in. I then match the client up with that developed job and if my client has additional needs or cannot do a function of the job, I then help them complete the task to the satisfaction of management. Typically, I learn the job, I then teach it to my client, and I coach them at their job till they no longer need my services. However, sometimes that person needs my services for a very prolonged period of time, in which case I would be there for them until the day they no longer need me.

I could tell you about all the certifications and state requirements needed to do this work; however, I will only tell you what is essential to success. You need to be able to hear “No” a lot, and be tenacious enough to come back the next day for more. I know I have annoyed employers and sometimes fought too hard for a client in the face of a hard “No.” To all of you, I apologize. Just know that for me, it is easy to fight for my clients. I believe in them.

Adults with disabilities are loyal to their jobs, they arrive on time as a rule and rarely leave or quit that job. They know all too well the consequence of that action. It is so incredibly difficult to find work in the first place and they may not get another job for many months. Sadly, sometimes the next job is years away. Only four out of every 10 adults with disabilities have gainful employment. Just imagine for a moment if that demographic represented women or Americans 55 and older.

To the businesses, and employers of our beloved Gorge, please hire a person with I/DD today. They bring hard work, unity, diversity, and inclusion to any workspace they occupy. If the cost of hiring is a concern, adults with disabilities come with large tax breaks for their employers. Consider saying “Yes” to a person with disabilities. I would guess that you have seen them in your stores and retail spaces buying your products. Shouldn’t they get to see people like themselves working in the store where their money is being spent? Complete inclusion of this wonderful community is long over do. Hiring a person with I/DD is not charity, it’s just good business.

You can begin the search for your next hardworking employee at any of these three state and county offices. DHS Vocational Rehabilitation Hood River (541) 386-3199, DHS Vocational Rehabilitation The Dalles 541-296-4661 or EOSSB (brokerage) 541-387-3600.

Raven Rutherford lives in Hood River.

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