Writer / Damar Services
Burger King Manager Cindy Joseph knows one thing for sure: Six days a week, 37-year-old Robert Burcham will be at the store by 5:15 a.m., eager and ready to work. He helps to get the kitchen prepared for the day, fires up the fryers, flips outdoor signboards and happily takes on extra tasks.
“He’s focused, and he doesn’t take shortcuts,” Joseph says of Robert. “He’s also reliable. He doesn’t miss work unless he’s really sick.”
What goes unspoken is the fact that Robert lives with developmental disabilities.
Joseph has learned what other employers who hire people with disabilities have learned — if you are willing to accommodate some initial hurdles that might come with an employee’s disability, you will be repaid with a loyal and dedicated employee.
Donnie McCoy has seen this dynamic again and again. As the Director of Independent Living for Damar Services, which serves people with developmental, intellectual and behavioral disabilities throughout Central Indiana, he helps adults with disabilities find jobs and live in the community.
“When I’m asked why employers should hire people with disabilities, I always ask, ‘Why not?’” McCoy says. “While our clients often need support with the application and interview process, once hired, they excel at the job. The sense of pride they feel for having been chosen for the job helps them to perform to the best of their ability day in and day out.”
McCoy points out that no potential employee is ever perfect, everyone has flaws. Once employers accept that and begin to consider both the strengths and weaknesses of all of their potential hires, people with disabilities often offer the best option.
“The sense of pride people with disabilities feel for having been chosen for the job helps them to perform to the best of their ability day in and day out,” McCoy says, adding that they also can bring to a job strengths not found in other prospective hires. “For example, people with autism can demonstrate excellent attention to detail, which is incredibly valuable to most hiring managers.”
But the impact of hiring a worker with a disability goes beyond that individual. Once hired, people with disabilities usually carry their fair share of the workload, become an inspiration and encouragement to others on a team, and provide a cheerful connection to the community.
In addition, once they have a job, people with disabilities pay taxes, pay for housing, purchase goods and services and, generally, become contributing members of society, just like everyone else.
“That’s what our clients want, and that’s what we’re trying to help them achieve,” McCoy says. “They want to be a part of their community, to contribute and participate in everyday, independent living. Given the chance, they show their appreciation by working hard.”
And, often, by showing incredible loyalty.
Certainly, Burcham is a great example of that. A few months ago, he gained a little extra “bling” on the black apron he puts on every morning: a gold-and-gemstone pin honoring his 20 years working for Burger King.