Facebook Twitter



The first year Royal Tippets began working as an employment specialist for people with disabilities, he was able to fill 40 jobs - but each of those placements was a struggle.

Now, six years later, Tippets says his job is much easier - thanks to a low unemployment rate, which has forced employers to try individuals they may not have taken a chance on before, and to increasing awareness of the capabilities of people with disabilities. Tippets, who works for the Maurice Warshaw Foundation out of the Provo Job Service building, has found employment for close to 300 clients during the past two years."Now I send a person out on a job and I feel they have a chance," Tippets said. "A few years ago, I just hoped."

But many members of society are still unaware of the needs and abilities of people with disabilities. A number of agencies that work with the disabled are joining together during October, which is National Handicapped Awareness Month, to sponsor a two-day awareness fair at University Mall in Orem to educate the public.

The fair, which will be held Friday, Oct. 20, and Saturday, Oct. 21, is built around the theme "Breaking the Barriers" and will focus on the educational, employment, recreational and social needs of people with disabilities, said Julie Eldredge, who also works for the Maurice Warshaw Foundation at Job Service. The fair will feature an obstacle course in which participants will encounter the kinds of barriers to mobility that disabled people must deal with; also, the Provo Chapter of the Utah Association of the Deaf will offer free sign-language classes.

Agencies participating in the fair include 'Splore (a recreational/social organization), the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Utah, Deseret Industries, United Way and Very Special Arts. It has two objectives, Eldredge said.

"One is to make the public in Utah County aware of the services available to them. The second purpose is to expose people to the fact that people with disabilities are people like everybody else - that people with disabilities can function and perform in society like normal human beings."

That participation has been fostered by development of technological tools that make it possible for many people with disabilities to compete in the work force like never before, Eldredge said. It has also been fostered by organizations such as the Maurice Warshaw Foundation and state vocational rehabilitation programs, which focus on removing employment barriers.

On the personal level, that may mean providing a disabled person with a wheelchair, prosthesis or hearing aid. It can mean providing a person with educational, vocational or on-the-job training. And it includes assessing and providing for emotional and social needs.

"The biggest cause of failure on the job is the lack of social skills," Tippets said. "A disabled person has often been working with agencies or their parents, and may have been secluded. The person doesn't know how to interact with others."

Landing a job depends on attitude and motivation.

"The greatest single attribute that a person might develop to help them get a job is their attitude," Tippets said. "Experience and know-how are secondary if the attitude is there."