Lifting a stigma: Programs, services ready adults with disabilities for employment

Editor’s note: This is a third story in a four-part array examining a people, families and services operative for those with incompatible abilities.

Yael Kerzan’s face lights adult when she talks about sophistry dual jobs during both Walmart and Northwoods Incorporated of Wisconsin.

Kerzan, 35, was innate with William Syndrome or WS, a singular genetic commotion characterized by medical problems, developmental delays and training disabilities. For people with disabilities, anticipating practice can mostly be formidable and frustrating, though Kerzan has enjoyed a rewarding experience.

Kerzan has found work opportunities by Northwoods given 2002, and will be celebrating 13 years during Walmart this summer. As a part-time worker during Walmart in Portage, Kerzan cleans “dust bunnies” underneath shelves, earnings products to a use list and assists business — among other duties. Northwoods, also located in Portage, provides Yael with a pursuit manager to guard her daily tasks.

“I like saying my peers each day, removing my paycheck and training new things,” Kerzan said. “When my friends come see me during Walmart, they always contend I’m doing a good job. It creates me feel happy.”

At Northwoods, Kerzan helps with several light production duties during a company’s work site facility. Northwoods, a not-for-profit organization, provides many reconstruction services to adults with disabilities, thin seniors and families in need in a area, including Columbia County and portions of Sauk County. Kerzan became informed with Northwoods in high propagandize when she was scheming for a transition from finale propagandize to entering a workforce.

“We satisfied it would be a smashing opportunity, once she graduated from school, to rise her skills so she could be a good worker in a community,” pronounced Dallas Kerzan, Yael’s mom.

The training Yael Kerzan perceived during Northwoods supposing her with profitable “soft skills” employers value.

“Those embody many things, from training how to speak to people, how to attend to a charge for hours during a time and how to take instruction from other people besides teachers and family members,” Dallas Kerzan said.

Her mom pronounced Kerzan is deliberate intellectually and developmentally disabled. She has problem last spatial family and has a tough time with numbers and epitome reasoning. Because of this, daily tasks can be daunting. In some ways, however, Kerzan’s incapacity has supposing some unusual gifts.

“WS gave her distinguished written abilities, a rarely amicable celebrity and an affinity for music,” Dallas Kerzan said.

Her accessible personality, work ethic, and eagerness to learn new skills haven’t been mislaid on her employers.

“My peers and my supervisors are so good to me,” Yael Kerzan said. “I adore to learn something new each day. we usually adore it here. It’s what we live for and what we get adult in a morning to do and demeanour brazen to.”

Jeff Aerts, President and CEO of Northwoods, pronounced training soothing skills are a initial step toward solid employment.

“We don’t wish to have a folks hired out of gift or feeling contemptible for them, we wish them to be profitable employees to a businessperson given that is going to keep them on a job,” pronounced Carol Aerts, who also helps clients during Northwoods. “We also wish to make certain it’s a good fit for a employer, they know what to expect, and it provides a use they need.”


Through assistance from Northwoods Incorporated of Wisconsin in Portage Yael Kerzan has confirmed solid practice for some-more than a decade. Northwoods helps adults with disabilities find work in Columbia County and other areas, including tools of Sauk County.

Contributed by Dallas Kerzan

Advocacy is key

Places like Northwoods, that was determined some-more than 40 years ago, can usually go so distant in providing support and services for people with disabilities. Often times, advocacy to advantage programs has to come from a chairman seeking it.

For some-more than a decade, a Kerzans have met with state and sovereign legislators to pull for some-more programs, that lead to larger autonomy in a workforce. In June, they will attend a SourceAmerica Grassroots Advocacy Conference in Washington, D.C. SourceAmerica is a non-profit designed to support other organizations in providing practice for people who are blind or have other poignant disabilities.

Local Aging and Disability Resource Centers (ADRCs) have also advocated for incapacity rights. In Juneau County, staff members and people with disabilities attend an annually legislative advocacy day during a state capitol in Madison. Funding increases is mostly tied to budgetary decisions, though it’s critical to have a voice during a list to highlight a significance of work programs.

Jessica Hoehn, incapacity advantage dilettante for a Juneau County ADRC, has 103 clients. Hoehn helps yield open assistance benefits, amicable confidence and Medicare information, and works to find housing. Director Char Norberg pronounced ADRCs have been around given 2008, though it’s usually been in a past year that a Juneau County classification has softened a overdo efforts to people in a community.

“We have seen an boost in use requests and all of a staff stays unequivocally busy,” Norberg said. “But we never spin anyone divided here.”

Another organisation assisting adults with disabilities is a Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR), a bend of a state’s Department of Workforce Development (DWD). According to a DWD, DVR serves about 17,000 persons with disabilities. Tyler Tichenor, communications dilettante for DWD, pronounced by legislation upheld in 2013, “the watchful list for difficulty 2 DVR consumers, those with poignant disabilities, was separated in 2015 for a initial time given 2004 and stays during 0 today.”

In Sauk County, DVR has dual vocational reconstruction counselors during a Baraboo office, along with a consumer box coordinator. According to Tichenor, 176 business in a area use services supposing by a program.

Nick Lampone serves as a area 10 executive for DVR. Lampone pronounced DVR offers a accumulation of services formed on an individual’s needs.

“We yield vocational conversing and superintendence and all of a counselors are protected professionals,” Lampone said. “DVR will also agreement with use providers to work with that individual. That could meant a chairman needs a tiny assistance operative on their resume, assistance with improving their speak skills and afterwards they’re good to go. Some people need some-more complete services, someone to assistance yield pursuit coaching, some-more one-on-one training to assistance perform a services of a job.”

Along with Baraboo, DVR also covers areas in Sauk City and Reedsburg. Services for people with disabilities have come a prolonged approach given a 1970s. Lampone pronounced a Vocational Rehabilitation Act of 1973 helped pave a approach for DVR services. Before that time, it was unequivocally formidable for people with disabilities to find any arrange of employment.

For Kerzan and other adults with disabilities, a fun of contributing to a workforce can’t be matched.

“It certain beats usually sitting during home,” she said. “I adore going to work and removing that paycheck.”


Andrew Peterson, 21, a former tyro during Sauk Prairie High School, works full time in a food use dialect during Sauk Prairie Hospital in Prairie du Sac. Peterson initial intered with a sanatorium by Project SEARCH, a 12 month, high propagandize transition module for students with disabilities, ages 18-21.

AUTUMN LUEDKE/Sauk Prairie Eagle

VARC and Insite yield help

Similar to Northwoods, VARC also began in a mid-1970s with common beginnings.

VARC started in a church groundwork in Viroqua with usually 6 clients and has grown to embody some-more than 600 today. A organisation of relatives started a module to yield resources for students with disabilities as they transitioned from propagandize to a workforce.

“We now yield a series of opposite services including practice training services, pursuit growth chain services, life skills, and improvement skills to clients all over executive and western Wisconsin,” pronounced executive clamp boss Elizabeth Filter.

Through a decades, VARC stretched to both Juneau and Sauk counties, and by Insite, yield upheld practice services. VARC has 4 on-site practice locations in Viroqua, Richland Center, Reedsburg and Necedah, that offer pre-vocational services. Through contracts with both vast and tiny manufacturers, clients work on convention and wrapping products, though also learn other profitable skills.

“They learn soothing skills, like how to work in a team, ask questions from your supervisor, time in for a day, how to follow a schedule,” Filter said. “It also works good as an introduction for people who are reentering a workforce or maybe have never had practice before. That’s a unequivocally vast use we provide.”

Through Insite, employees with disabilities accept assistance in requesting and securing pursuit opportunities. Filter pronounced VARC also partners with DVR to impute people to companies for employment.

“All of a village practice positions we rise are by Insite and that’s a disproportion between VARC and Insite,” Filter said. “VARC provides a on-site practice training, while Insite does a village business growth for a clients.”


Chelsea Stanek looks to ready a dish in a kitchen of her home in Union Center. Stanek, who has been wheelchair firm many of her life, works part-time during Hillsboro High School as a special preparation aid.

Kevin Damask, Star-Times

Stigma still exists

While programs have supposing training and skills for workers with disabilities, some employers are still wavering to sinecure someone who is disabled.

Chelsea Stanek, 29, loves her part-time pursuit during Hillsboro High School. The Union Center resident, who is cramped to a wheelchair, works about 10 hours a week during a school. She assists teachers and students in a school’s special preparation department. Stanek volunteered for some-more than 3 years until propagandize administrators finished it a paid position in January.

“I was unequivocally vehement about that given that’s what we was going for,” Stanek said. “I unequivocally suffer it. we was astounded how many we like operative with a kids. we wanted to benefit some-more autonomy this year and this pursuit helps with that.”

The ubiquitous open can make assumptions about people in wheelchairs. Stanek pronounced there is still work to be finished to lift a tarnish of persons with disabilities.

“They see a chairman in a wheelchair and consider ‘Oh, maybe we shouldn’t speak to that person,’ or they assume things and they unequivocally don’t get to know a person,” Stanek said. “They competence consider ‘Oh, are they retired? Why are we in a wheelchair?’ we get asked that a lot by kids. I’m certain employers have to consider about these issues given they consternation if they can do a good job.”

Through her pursuit in Hillsboro, Stanek returned to a propagandize district she grew adult in. Being in a tiny school, Stanek believes she was safeguarded from a effects of bullying. She was a wrestling cheerleader in high propagandize and sang in a choir. Stanek was a bashful student, though pronounced a activities helped her mangle out of her bombard and benefit self-confidence.

Stanek was innate 3 months premature. She was unequivocally tiny as an tot and doctors found draining on her brain. Stanek was means to use her legs after birth, though eventually mislaid many of her feeling next a waist.

“I was told we could flog both my legs when we was a baby,” Stanek pronounced with a laugh. “I was utterly a kicker. But I’ve been in a wheelchair given we was unequivocally small.”

After graduating from Hillsboro High, Stanek warranted an associate’s grade in executive assistance from Western Technical College. From 2011-13, she worked as an executive partner for Champion House in Hillsboro and was beholden for a opportunity. Champion House provides housing for people with serious disabilities. She was means to land a pursuit by family friends, though after a integrate years, there wasn’t adequate work to keep her employed.

Stanek credits Kim and Snapper Verbsky, owners of a Champion House, for giving her a chance. The Verbskys have a teenage daughter who is wheelchair bound.

“She is graduating this year and is going to a University of Illinois,” Stanek said. “She is a intelligent cookie and her incapacity is some-more serious than mine.”

Stanek hasn’t had difficulty anticipating work, though will substantially never have a full-time position. She gets sleepy simply so spending 8 or some-more hours a day during work would be tough. Stanek contingency also watch her hours closely to explain Social Security benefits.

“They are unequivocally parsimonious on how many we can make and how many we can work,” Stanek said. “I have to be unequivocally clever with that. It’s a pain in a boundary and can be unequivocally difficult.”


Char Norberg, executive of a Aging and Disability Resource Center (ADRC) in Juneau County, talks about programs for adults with disabilities during a new interview. ADRCs are mostly a initial organisation adults with disabilities go to for assistance with employment, travel and other services.

Kevin Damask, Star-Times

Transportation can be a hurdle

Transportation can be one of a biggest obstacles in anticipating and progressing employment. Stanek is training to expostulate and has a proxy license. Family members take Stanek to work, though for some, anticipating travel can be difficult, generally in farming areas but open movement services.

“That is substantially a biggest issue, given it mostly keeps people in their homes,” pronounced Norberg from a Juneau County ADRC.

Most ADRCs yield travel by proffer drivers. Northwoods provides a train use to pursuit sites.

For persons with disabilities in a area, there are many programs that yield work assistance. Local ADRCs offer as a good starting point, including a Department of Vocational Rehabilitation.

“Working is something we like to do and we wish to do,” Stanek said.

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