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Teamwork Supports Staff and Mission of Institute for Disability Studies

Fri, 10/31/2014 - 10:23am | By: Alma Ellis

Pictured here: Reagan Ratcliff, Dan Lewis, Haley Graham, Dr. Beth Bryant-Claxton, Grant Carter, and Laura Waldrop. (Submitted photo)

Haley Graham, Reagan Ratcliff, Grant Carter and Dan Lewis make a great team. Their daily work at The University of Southern Mississippi Institute for Disability Studies (IDS) provides support for busy staff and keeps the office running smoothly.

Graham, Ratcliff and Carter each work 10 hours a week as office assistants. Their jobs include answering the telephone, filing, checking and dispersing the mail, preparing bulk mailings, copying and scanning documents and checking in inventory. “They do everything,” said Laura Waldrop, office manager at IDS. “We all rely on them.”

Lewis works 19 hours a week as a technology assistant for IDS. During the week, he duplicates and prints CDs and DVDs, adds closed captions to video, provides maintenance on the Institute's CD catalog and handles interdepartmental mail.

October is National Disability Employment Awareness month, the perfect month to promote the difference a job can make in the lives of these young adults with disabilities, and the difference these dedicated workers can make on the job.

“Including and employing individuals with disabilities is a clear part of IDS' mission and purpose, one with definite mutual benefits,” said Dr. Beth Bryant-Claxton, executive director of IDS. “These young adults are growing in work and “life” skills, living productive lives, and increasing their independence and self-determination.

“Our workplace benefits from their assistance with tasks vital to our daily functioning, and we are enriched by learning about their lives and their stories. It is an important exercise for us to consider how to make our workplace activities accessible and welcoming for ALL employees. And if we can do it, other workplaces may follow suit.”

Work opportunities are expanding in Mississippi for youth and young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. In January, Governor Phil Bryant signed Executive Order 1335 during the Legislative Session recognizing that people with disabilities represent a viable business option for employers and people with disabilities.