The Arc Northern Chesapeake Region (The Arc NCR) in Aberdeen, Maryland works closely with the business community to provide employment opportunities to individuals that they support. In 2005, The Arc NCR established a business partnership with Acadia Windows and Doors in Baltimore. This partnership has employed over nine workers with intellectual and developmental disabilities from The Arc NCR to date with great success. Today, five of those workers are making a difference on the manufacturing floor by performing tasks resulting in production line improvements. They earn wages comparable to people without disabilities doing the same job for Acadia and interact with their peers at the company in an integrated work environment.
Jessica Markle, one of the individuals receiving services at The Arc NCR, works on the manufacturing production line installing wool pile used as weather stripping in every window. She received on-the-job training and support from a job coach, as well as transportation support to the work site each day. Jessica works independently in a warehouse with 63 other co-workers with and without disabilities on the manufacturing floor. She is able to accomplish her job independently even though she is legally blind and developmentally disabled. As a result of employing people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, Acadia Windows & Doors has a safer work environment and was awarded the Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Award from OSHA (Occupational Health & Safety Administration) in 2007 and again in 2011.
Here’s what Acadia’s Vice President of Manufacturing, Neill Christopher, had to say about this partnership with The Arc NCR:
Question: How did Acadia Windows and Doors’ partnership with The Arc NCR begin?
Answer: We didn’t partner with The Arc NCR to be altruistic; we partnered with them because to do so makes sense as a business decision. This is a great pool of workers. We had a great deal of trepidation when The Arc NCR first approached us. This is a manufacturing environment, with large sheets of glass, saws, and presses, all capable of inflicting serious injury. What we learned is that everything that we did to make things safer for our team members from The Arc NCR, made it safer for everyone else as well. We’re an OSHA SHARP site; proud of our safety record while striving to always make our facility safer for all who work or visit here.
Question: What are a few of the outcomes that have been evident through this partnership?
Answer: As promised, our team members from The Arc NCR are reliable. They consistently have exemplary attendance records, and always hit their production goals. As our partnership with The Arc NCR developed, we found that our company was changing in several positive ways. First of all, we worked better as a team. In planning to assimilate our new employees, we problem solved in a way that was different for us, and this new ability carried over into all aspects of our teamwork. We were learning to think differently, and forming interdepartmental relationships that hadn’t existed before.
Question: Are there any changes that surprised you as a result of hiring people with disabilities?
Answer: We found ourselves becoming a kinder company. Along with looking out for our team members from The Arc NCR, we began to look out for one another, too. It was a subtle change at first, but we’ve learned to embrace this change as we work together on a daily basis.
If I’m having a tough day, I’ll take a quick walk around our factory floor. Our team members from The Arc NCR take visible joy in their accomplishments, and are always eager to show what they’ve produced so far each day. Their joy is contagious, and I return to my office recharged and inspired by their example.