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Companies hire disabled employees as part of new program

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (March 5, 2015) - March is Disability Awareness Month in Indiana, where a new push is underway for employers to hire disabled workers. Citizens Energy Group , one of the largest employers in the state, is leading this new effort.

One employee recently hired is Phil Hinton, a United States Marine.

“I was shot and I developed glaucoma due to the eye injury,” Hinton said. “So I’ve had several surgeries to try to correct my vision. Unfortunately, they were unsuccessful.”

After his injury overseas, Hinton found himself an unemployed veteran.

“Upon being admitted to the hospital, my life had pretty much had stopped,” he said. “I was confused a lot. I had a lot of doubt as to what kind of person I would be, how can I contribute to society?”

Then he heard about a new program through Citizens Energy Group and a company called Tangram Business Resourcing that places employees with disabilities, like him.

“This is not about charity, this is all about finding employees can do the same job as anybody else, whether they have a disability or not,” said Kathy Bernhardt with Tangram. “There’s no lowering of standards, this is not about carving out a job, a position for them. This is really about finding the qualified candidates out there that have disabilities.”

Tangram says hiring in the United States is up, unless you’re unemployed. For those workers, unemployment is more than double the national rate. Citizens now hires disabled workers for a number of positions, including in call centers and as meter readers.

These employees perform the same jobs with the same responsibilities as able bodied workers. They also receive the same pay.

The hope is that other Indiana employers follow suit.

“One of our ultimate goals for our strategic plan for diversity and inclusion is to become a leader in diversity in the city of Indianapolis, as well as the state of Indiana,” said Tamiko Leslie with Citizens Energy Group.

Until then, employees like Hinton say this commitment by Citizens has changed his life for the better.

“A lot of people use disabilities as a reason why they can’t,” Hinton said. “It’s all about believing in yourself. Instead of finding ways why you can’t do something, find ways to show that you can do something, why I can do this.”