For nearly two years the Allegheny 365 Committee has been working to create a completely accessible county in regard to services, facilities, and jobs. Its work has culminated in a report issued to County Executive Rich Fitzgerald. The main recommendation is that the county create an office of employment accessibility and inclusion. That office would, among other things, provide a single point of contact for those seeking employment, employers and the county.
"Other recommendations are the county doing a thorough assessment of the current state of accessibility, and then from that come up with a more detailed implementation plan," said Rory Cooper, co-chair of the Allegheny 365 committee and Pitt professor.
In all, Cooper added, the county is in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, but there is still room for improvement. The overall goal of the 365 committee was to give the county a long-term roadmap to not only stay in compliance, but to also make improvements going forward. There are still some barriers to employment for people with disabilities, including communication roadblocks.
"In other words, having people with disabilities know what jobs are available within the county and have employers, including the county, be aware of the talents and capabilities of people with disabilities in the region," said Cooper.
Other barriers include changing the attitudes of some managers in the county. The plan suggests the creation of awareness training programs, especially for managers, as some are still reluctant to hire people with disabilities.
"One of the reasons I think that persists is that unemployment among people with disabilities remains high so you get this chicken/egg kind of problem working," said Cooper, "whereas when you get more people with disabilities in the workplace, then people become more familiar with them, or they become supervisors and the problem can start to resolve itself."
The report has been given to County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, who has given it to County Manager William McKain. There is no set timeline for action on the plan.