If you’ve been to the Aroostook Centre Mall you may have seen Philip doing a variety of jobs. Phillip has been deaf since birth.
We spoke with him today, he’s been an employee at the mall for over a year now. He uses American sign language to communicate with his fellow employees.
Philip was hired at his job here, with a little help from Gayla Dwyer vocational development lead for the Aroostook mental health center, vocational service department. This department has been in operation for over 20 years helping people with disabilities realize skills and abilities they posses and then, go out into the community and interacting with employers to see what their employment needs are.
“We partner with the department of labor vocational rehabilitation and they provide funding services to help the individual to use job coaching support if they have work clothes need, transportation needs vocational rehab program can help with that.” Said Dwyer.
AMHC works with Aroostook Centre Mall to help people with disabilities gain employment, and keep it. Patti Crooks the general manager of the Mall told us that about 50 percent of her staff are people who have disabilities. Working with AMHC she told us they have had tremendous success.
“Probably the most heart warming part of it is, is they have something to teach and they have something to prove not only to the public and to myself as their supervisor but also to themselves. So to watch them grow it’s a tremendous thing.”Said Crooks
We spoke with two other workers at the mall that told us why equal opportunity employment is important.
Michael sehrader a Janitor at the Mall said, “I’m just as able bodied as somebody whose not with disabilities, somebody whose able.”
Mark Norris a customer service representative said, “Oh i mean i just love to be interacting with people which is great to being a customer service rep is perfect for that.”
Dwyer told us that there are approximately 206,400 of Maine’s residents have one or more disabilities. At this point in time about 16% of them are employed, AMHC’s goal is to raise that percentage in the years to come.