Advertisements by the Lewis County Autism Coalition’s “Cultivating Inclusion” campaign will now adorn the sides of Twin Transit buses to promote the hiring of neurodiverse individuals.
The advertisements feature Adrian Rone, a Home Depot employee, and Hannah Byrd, a Goodwill employee.
“We’re basically celebrating Hannah and Adrian. They’re some role models for the rest of our community as people that are working in inclusive environments and the growth and opportunities that people can have,” said Lisa Davis, president of the Lewis County Autism Coalition (LCAC).
Davis mentioned other campaigns of this nature usually show people with autism or other disabilities pushing brooms, dusting or doing other menial jobs. With these pictures, they intended to display Rone and Byrd working in positions they actually have. Both of them also described gaining confidence and fulfillment from their work.
“It’s not easy to get a job around here so it’s good to have that support, that help, and then also the encouragement to keep moving forward in your job, keep your job and enjoy your job,” Byrd said about the coalition.
LCAC partners with Morningside, Reliable Enterprises and Compass Career Solutions to provide employer and hiring resources. When employers reach out to LCAC, referrals are split between those three resources.
“For me, being able to find a job from Morningside and being able to work at Home Depot is like a dream. A reachable dream experience,” Rone said, stating customer service is challenging but rewarding. “I made it to the full-time position of a pro loader. I was like, ‘Chances are, I can make a difference.’ … And every day I get up in the morning and before I go to work I look in the mirror and ask myself this one question: ‘What difference can I make?’”
Brittany Voie, a co-facilitator of LCAC, noted the timeliness of the campaign due to recent labor shortages, and said workplaces are uplifted when staffs include different kinds of people.
For people in the hiring process, Davis said she does recommend disclosing disability status, though she recognized that was a personal choice some people may not feel comfortable with, for fear of discrimination. She said disclosing can allow employees to advocate for their needs, request accommodations and share more about who they are.
Because it is illegal for employers to ask disability-related questions during the hiring process, the choice must always come down to the person applying for the position.
“It can be subtle, and then (employers) start to see the benefits (of diverse hiring practices) and are like, ‘Well why didn’t we think about reaching out to more people who are looking for jobs and might be having a hard time finding them?’ But we have some great employers, we really do, so we’re lucky,” Davis said.
The choice to use bus wraps for these ads, Davis said, was spurred both by their high visibility and by Twin Transit’s support for LCAC work.
“We just love having this on our buses. It’s such a good message,” said Andrea Culletto, community relations director for Twin Transit.
Anyone interested in getting involved or learning more can visit lcautism.org/cultivating-inclusion.