New push to hire disabled workers in Indiana

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (March 5, 2015) - March is Disability Awareness Month in Indiana, where a new push is underway for employers to hire disabled workers. Citizens Energy Group is one of the largest employers in the state and is leading this new effort.

One employee recently hired is Phil Hinton, a United States Marine.

“I had a lot of goals, a lot of ambition, a lot of dreams, and that all kind of went away once I got shot in the eye,” Hinton said.

After Hinton’s injury overseas, surgery didn’t correct the damage. Hinton found himself an unemployed veteran.

“I really didn’t know what I could do with having just one eye,” he said. “I never felt sorry for myself, and I always looked at myself as a regular person.”

Then he heard about a new program through Citizens Energy Group and a company called Tangram Business Resourcing that places employees with disabilities, like him.

“It is an untapped workforce that companies have not really looked at,” said Kathy Bernhardt with Tangram. “There are one in five Americans that are disabled in this country, so it’s really a workforce that is capable, that is ready to go to work, qualified, and have skills to do jobs.”

Tangram says hiring in the United States is up, unless you’re unemployed.

For those workers, unemployment is more than double the national rate. Citizens now hires disabled workers for a number of positions, including in call centers and as meter readers. These employees perform the same jobs with the same responsibilities as other workers. They also receive the same pay. The hope is that other Indiana employers follow suit.

“One of our ultimate goals for our strategic plan for diversity and inclusion is to become a leader in diversity in the city of Indianapolis, as well as the state of Indiana,” said Tamiko Leslie with Citizens Energy Group.

Until then, employees like Hinton say this commitment by Citizens has changed his life for the better.

“The one thing that I would say to any disabled veteran or just any disabled person is believe in yourself,” Hinton said. “If you believe in yourself, you can accomplish, you can achieve many things in life.”

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