Each year as part of our Tree of Hope campaign, DSC awards a local business as the Employer of the Year. Although it is our 25th anniversary for Tree of Hope, it is DSC’s 32nd year recognizing an Employer of the Year. It is a long-standing tradition in our organization and within our local community. Our recognition event started as a standalone event to recognize the outstanding achievements of individuals, employers and citizens most benefiting the people who receive DSC services, but over time, we saw it beneficial to combine our recognition event with Tree of Hope into one annual event. This event is well-thought of and looked forward to those of us at DSC, as well as those in the community at large.
When we think of community partners, this year we did not have to think long before we thought of this year’s Employer of the Year recipient, Debbie Sage, Human Resources Coordinator, Champaign Park District.
Debbie’s passion for working with DSC is rooted in being a parent of a child with a disability. Through her own experiences, she has become an advocate in the workplace for others. In the fall of 2017, she, along with her team, organized a series of disability inclusion training for the Champaign Park District, including LEAP (Leaders in Employing All People).
Since that time, the Champaign Park District has organized tours with DSC job candidates and worked closely with DSC job coaches, to assist with the application process, orientation, in addition to hiring multiple people within their organization with disabilities.
We asked Debbie what it requires from the employer’s perspective to champion an inclusive culture in today’s workplace. “You treat everyone with respect and you treat people like people, regardless if they have a disability or not. We all need help with different areas at work from time to time, and people with disabilities aren’t any different.”
For employers who are looking to create a more diverse workforce, Debbie offers the following insights for those who looking to expand their own workplace practices. “First off, I couldn’t do what I do, without the support of the company I work for and the wonderful people I work for, as well. A prime example is looking at Michael and seeing how much pride he takes to work with us and how much he loves his job. His enthusiasm and that sparkle in his eye makes it amazing for me. I hope we are able to hire more like him here.”
A few other tips:
· Ask the person what they think
· Think outside the box
· Treat them as an individual
· Know you are making a difference
· Don’t be closed minded, just because they have a disability doesn’t mean they can’t do the job