- Associated Press - Sunday, August 16, 2015

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) - South Dakota officials and a state retailer group are making a push for businesses to hire people with disabilities.

Officials with the state Department of Human Services and the South Dakota Retailers Association see people with disabilities as being an untapped labor market, the Argus Leader (https://argusne.ws/1h9oa8v ) reported. Since the state has such dramatic workforce needs, hiring people with disabilities seems like a no-brainer, according to Shawn Lyons, executive director of the Retailers Association.

Because one in four jobs in South Dakota is tied to the retail and hospitality industries, here’s no question that we have a demand for workers right now,” Lyons said. “It seems like that’s a labor market we would want to tap into.”

Kevin Olinger, who is disabled, previously worked on parts assembly at the old Sioux Vocational Services, but he wanted to be out in the working world, mingling with the public and conversing with people on a regular basis. For the past 31 years, he has worked at an Ace Hardware location in Sioux Falls, where he sweeps floors, cleans the bathrooms and stocks the shelves.

“He started out with our manager having to draw stick men to have him understand what we needed to have done in his job,” store owner Kevin Nyberg said. “Now I would tell you that he has performed for us many times more than a lot of people without a disability.”

Nyberg said he now sees Olinger as an employee who “is proficient in many areas and has developed over the years the confidence to do the job well and take on more responsibilities.”

Olinger is street smart, understands what it takes for a business to be profitable and “wants to perform so greatly to meet the employer’s expectation,” Nyberg said.

The Department of Human Services and the Retailers Association were scheduled to hold a webinar Aug. 11 to help employers find and hire people with disabilities. The webinar was set to provide information about diagnoses that are disabilities and how to make reasonable accommodations, and what to avoid asking during job interviews.

“My mother had polio,” Lyons said as he recalled how difficult it was for her to find employment after she graduated from school in the late 1960s. “I think of how far we have come for a variety of all kinds of the right reasons.”

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