BROWN COUNTY, Wis. (WBAY) - The University of New Hampshire's Institute on Disability found that 41% of people with disabilities in Wisconsin are now employed, putting the state on the map as a leader in disability employment.
Wisconsin went from 16th best in the nation in 2010 to 10th in 2015.
New programs in Wisconsin like Project SEARCH are helping connect people with disabilities to employers who need more workers.
In Brown County, Project SEARCH has successfully turned a couple dozen interns into employees in just two years of having the program.
Places like Bellin, HSHS Saint Mary's, Austin Straubel International Airport, manufacturing companies and fitness centers are partnering with ASPIRO and like-minded programs to employ people with disabilities.
Redebra Peters, Career Consultant and Job Developer for ASPIRO said it takes employers thinking more creative about their jobs, with the help of advocates. "People who advocate for people with disabilities—we're doing a much better job of getting out there and educating,” she said.
Peters says people with disabilities work everywhere. Action 2 News met up with Joe St. Thomas, who has worked at Krider Pharmacy for 21 years—re-stocking pill bottles, vacuuming, cleaning and other jobs. "Punch in, then I go downstairs, vacuum,” he rattled off his five-day a week responsibilities.
St. Thomas is a part of an ASPIRO program that checks on his work at the pharmacy. “I like the job!” he said with a smile.
Another new program is a reverse job search for people with disabilities to sit at tables while employers work the room to meet each of them and learn about the potential employees abilities.
But even though Wisconsin is now tenth in the nation for employing people with disabilities, Redebra P eters wants to do better.
"Take a hard look at your workforce. It really should be a reflection of your community—and with 9.5% of our community [Brown County] having some form of disability—is, nine and a half percent of your workforce have some type of disability. And if not, come see me,” she said.
You can contact ASPIRO by calling (920) 498-2599.