Your Local News | Allentown, Bethlehem & Easton
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Health & Wellness News

'The most untapped workforce': How Lehigh Valley Employment Coalition is connecting people with disabilities to jobs

Moses Atlantic working
Brittany Sweeney
Moses Atlantic works at Ryder, an opportunity he was connected with through the Lehigh Valley Employment Coalition.

ALBURTIS, Pa. — Some people take the act of getting and maintaining a job for granted, but for others, such as those with disabilities, employment can provide a sense of purpose.

According to the World Health Organization, decent work can contribute to recovery and inclusion, as well as improve confidence and social functioning.

  • The Lehigh Valley Employment Coalition connects people with disabilities to job opportunities
  • Connections have positive health outcomes for the employees
  • Businesses who employ people with disabilities are eligible for tax credits

An organization in the Lehigh Valley is working to support that by connecting those with disabilities to employers.
One such employee is Moses Atlantic, who often can be found humming a tune to himself while getting his job done. He said he enjoys what he does.

Atlantic is an employee at Ryder, a logistics and transportation company in Alburtis, where he sorts through cable boxes organizing the parts.

“People with disabilities are wonderful employees."
Jenifer Schaadt, Vice President, Lehigh Valley Employment Coalition

"It's actually fun what I do, what my hands do, and put stuff away and all that, sort them by group or colors, too,” Atlantic said.

He was connected with Ryder through the Lehigh Valley Employment Coalition, linking those with intellectual and other disabilities to job opportunities.

Looking forward

“People with disabilities are wonderful employees," said Jenifer Schaadt, vice president of the coalition.Some people may wake up and say, ‘Oh, I have to go to work today.’ You know, a lot of the people we support are like, ‘I get to go to work today!’

"So it's the most untapped workforce, and research shows that people with disabilities are great employees, and it shows that it's important for health and wellness."

Schaadt said the coalition is made up of employers, educators and human service professionals who support people with disabilities in employment across the valley.

“When you think about your own life, and how important it is to be employed, and having purpose and meaningful activities in your life, it's the same thing for people with disabilities, it's critical for your physical health, for your mental health, in every aspect of your life," she said.

"There's no better way to enrich someone's life than connecting them to employment."

"We have many different programs and we always focus on diversity and inclusion."
Fernando Escobar, group logistic manager at Ryder

Fernando Escobar is a group logistic manager at Ryder.  He said Atlantic is the only person to work for them through the coalition, but they plan to expand the partnership.

“It's part of our core values" Escobar said. "We have many different programs and we always focus on diversity and inclusion."

'Like just having a person without a disability'

Working under Escobar is Warehouse Operations Supervisor Manuel Schagen, who oversees Atlantic directly. Schagen said, “he performs the same way as anyone else and just has a great positive attitude doing it. He gets his stuff done.”

Schagen said Atlantic already is an asset to their team.

“He does the same job as everybody else," Schagen said. "He's effective. He's positive every day he comes into work and he makes sure he says hello, he makes sure he says goodbye.

"It is like just having a person without a disability."

Not only is his employment beneficial to his employer, but it’s crucial to his overall well-being, Atlantic said.

“It's really important because if you don't have a job, you don't have a house or something like that, or money, too, like, you'd be broke,” Atlantic said.

Schagen explained why the opportunity works and is successful for Atlantic.

“He's not at home, he's here at work," Schagen said. "He has a responsibility. He has purpose. So for him, I think it gives him that purpose and it makes him just very more positive toward every day.

"'Hey, I have something to do. I have a job to go to. I have responsibility. Somebody's counting on me.' So just for him to accomplish those goals. I think every day just gives him a more positive outlook."

'It's, like, keep moving forward'

The Lehigh Valley Employment Coalition partners with a variety of employers, from law firms to grocery stores, and offers on site assistance if needed.

We've seen so many positive outcomes for people, you know, health and wellness, mental health, all the way around total, you know, health and wellness, through employment. It really enriches people's lives.
Jennifer Schaadt, vice president of Lehigh Valley Employment Commission

“We've seen so many positive outcomes for people, you know, health and wellness, mental health, all the way around total, you know, health and wellness, through employment," Schaadt said.

"It really enriches people's lives."

She said it enriches the lives of people like Atlantic, and gives them a purpose for their lifetime.

"It's like, keep moving forward," Atlantic said. "It's like that.”

The Lehigh Valley Employment Coalition also works with employers to help them gain access to tax credits available when they employ someone with disabilities.