The more than 63,000 disabled people who live in Duval County have an easier way to find a job with the introduction of employmefirst.org, a new website launched Tuesday by The ARC Jacksonville.
“People with disabilities want the same things we all want. They want a good job, a good home and friends,” said Jim Whittaker, who is president and CEO of the organization.
Funded by a $125,000 Public Service Grant from the city, the website will match job seekers with job creators for a more inclusive workforce, he said, by allowing applicants to highlight their capabilities rather than their disabilities.
“Employees with disabilities can work for any size company,” said Bonnie Barnes, who helped design the new website.
“We want it to be the most user-friendly site because so many applicants don’t fit the traditional mold,” she said. “And employers can use the site to evaluate job requirements to better match an applicant with an opening.”
According to a 2014 U.S. Senate committee report, less than 30 percent of working-age people with disabilities participate in the workforce and twice as many people with disabilities live in poverty compared to those who are not disabled.
Audrey Moran, Baptist Health vice president for social responsibility and community advocacy and chair-elect of the chamber, said Baptist has a long history of offering employment to disabled people.
Baptist will consider the new website a resource to further that goal.
“We have five departments at Baptist Health waiting for an intern from the disabled community,” she said.
Whittaker said Jacksonville is one of the first cities to put an emphasis on hiring all people with disabilities and the effort is endorsed by the JAX Chamber, which is encouraging its members to post jobs on the site.
“This is a communitywide effort. With the help of businesses who employ people with disabilities, I believe we can make an impact on the people of Jacksonville,” he said.
Disabled employment: By the numbers
• 2013 community survey estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau indicate there are 559,535 adults age 18-64 in Duval County; 62,987 (11.3 percent) have a disability. That compares with 10.3 percent of all Floridians and 10.5 percent of the U.S. population in that age category who have a disability.
• According to a September report by the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions, fewer than 30 percent of working-age people with disabilities are included in the workforce. Twice as many people with disabilities live in poverty compared to those who are not classified as disabled.
• Single people with a disability who are unemployed and must rely on Supplemental Security Income receive $733 per month, $8,657 annually. The federal classification for a one-person household to qualify as extremely low income is $13,300 per year.
• In Duval County public schools, 31 percent of students with disabilities who exited high school in 2011-12 were employed within one year or were enrolled in continuing education. That compares with a statewide rate of 38 percent, according to the Florida Education and Training Placement Information Program 2014 Profile.