Walgreens is one of the companies that has created a network to expand opportunities to qualified individuals with disabilities.
Twenty-seven-year-old Jonathan Walter works full-time at the 641 N. Clark Street Walgreens in Chicago's River North's area. He is hearing impaired and works different areas of the store. Some require interacting with customers.
This location is open 24 hours, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Store manager Lisa Miller has 70 employees working different shifts. Five of them are hearing impaired.
"We get them through Goodwill and Jewish Vocational Services and Disability Works. And they have trainers," said Miller. "They actually go for about a week on an internship in the store and they have someone that comes along with them, trains them, helps them."
"They're some that are cashiers. They're price administrators here, they're stock help. They do everything," Miller said. "And then it's just a smooth transition. They come in, they know already know what to do. They need just a little guidance and it's great."
Walgreens has a nationwide program that recruits people with disabilities. Deb Russell is the outreach manager.
"We started doing it systematically in 2006 with the opening of a distribution center in South Carolina," said Russell, "and as we saw that to be very successful in the systematic support to a whole division, we're now rolling those lessons learned into stores.
"The most common position we hire is the service clerk in the stores. That's where we have the most turnover. That's the position we're targeting right now, simply because that's where the most opportunity exists."
The benefits of hiring people with disabilities is not just about giving them jobs, it also creates customer loyalty.
"They make this their Walgreens," said Miller. "They see someone that's hearing impaired, that they can easily communicate with, and they come every single time looking for that employee to help them with their needs."
When asked about his jobs, Jonathan says: "Happy, happy."
Walgreens is a member of the US Business Leadership Network. They are having a conference in Chicago from September 19 through September 22.
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