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LADSE fronts initiative to employ the disabled

Published: Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014 12:43 p.m. CDT • Updated: Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014 3:12 p.m. CDT
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LADSE Director of Vocational Services Karen Steffan will pilot the first Project Search program in Illinois to find employment for people with disabilities.

The La Grange Area Department of Special Education (LADSE) believes 2014 is a good time for a great idea; one that would employ disabled residents and empower them to be active consumers.

Partnering with the Helping Hand Center and the Illinois Department of Rehabilitation Services, LADSE began a conversation with Project Search, which takes special needs students from school to work through immersion training in the workplace.

Project Search has 280 programs across 40 states and four countries.

LADSE Director of Vocational Services Karen Steffan will pilot the first Project Search program in Illinois. Ranked dead last in the nation for providing services to people with disabilities, Illinois has the second highest unemployment rate and is ranked second worst in economic growth, according to the Illnos Policy Institute.

Steffan said she believes the biggest deterrent to employment for people with disabilities are misconceptions and low expectations.

"We know through experience that students and adults with disabilities will outperform most perceptions and expectations," she said in a news release.

Steffan is now challenging businesses to see the potential of the Project Search employees, and the benefits of having them on their payroll, including higher retention rates, tax benefits and building a base of loyal customers.

The LADSE Project Search Business Advisory Committee will meet at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Helping Hand Center, 9649 West 55th St., Countryside.

Registration for the meeting is required and can be made by calling Tricia Iraci at 708-482-1170.

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