Times tough for Ohio disabled seeking employment - Cincinnati News, FOX19-WXIX TV

Times tough for Ohio disabled seeking employment

HAMILTON, Ohio (AP) - The weak economy is especially hard on people with disabilities looking for work, who face unemployment rates many times higher than the state average.

With so many people out of work, even entry-level jobs such as bagging groceries are hard to find. Andrew Callsen, 21, who has a form of autism, says he'd rather work than take government assistance, but openings are few in the county with 10.6 percent unemployment. "I want to have a job because I want to pay back society for all of the stuff they have given me," said Callsen, who has Asberger's syndrome.

 Callsen, who lives in Madison Township in Butler County, is working with Goodwill Easter Seals Miami Valley, hoping to land a job in the horticultural field. "Honestly, the toughest question from my clients these days is, 'When are you going to find me a job?"' said Melissa Engle of Goodwill Easter Seals.

The national unemployment rate is 9.4 percent but U.S. Census data puts that figure at more than 62 percent for those with disabilities. Ohio's unemployment rate jumped to 11.2 percent in July, the highest in a quarter century. Things haven't been this bad in the two decades Mark Miller has worked with the Butler County Board of Developmental Disabilities helping people get jobs.

 For the most part, the board and agencies such as Goodwill Easter Seals Miami Valley have successfully placed people with disabilities in entry-level jobs. However, those positions are drying up as the economy forces many to take any job they can get. "We hope things turn around and these overqualified people will go back to their jobs and open up more positions our clients are after," Miller said.

 Callsen discovered an aptitude for horticulture thanks to a work assessment by Goodwill. A one-week stint with First Pick, a produce stand in Springboro run, validated his feelings. "He is so proud of himself, and when the paycheck came in the mail, oh my God," said Callsen's mother, Cheryl. "It was a really good experience."

The challenge now is finding a job, said Melissa Engle, an employee with Goodwill who is working with Callsen. Even in good times, it takes two to six months to find the right job with the right employer. The recession is affecting that time frame, she said.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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