Stoystown business prepares people with disabilities for the workforce

February 1, 2018 GMT

For Darla Blough, a disabilities job coach, working with people with disabilities requires being out among them in the workforce.

“Being person-centered is very important to individuals with disabilities because they sometimes don’t feel they have a voice,” she said.

Blough is the owner of Career Rehabilitation Building Services, based in Stoystown. Blough and her nine employees spend 12 to 15 hours a day working with clients to obtain and maintain jobs. This could involve anything from job shadowing to teaching clients how to prepare for job interviews.

“The first thing we do is teach them the basic skills to help find employment, which is building your resume and teaching you interviewing skills,” she said.

Blough is a subcontractor with the Pennsylvania Office of Vocational Rehabilitation. The office provides services to people who have been diagnosed with a physical or mental disability.

“As long as you qualify for some sort of disability, you qualify for these programs,” she said.

The National Mental Health Association reported that 1 in 5 adults, or more than 40 million people, in the United States have a mental health condition. In Pennsylvania, 18 percent of the population has a mental disability. Mental disabilities include learning disabilities such as dyslexia and attention deficit disorder.

Blough’s company has helped more than 115 customers in the six months it has been open, working with children as young as 10 and adults of various ages. The business receives referrals from programs such as OVR.

“I have some clients on my caseload in their 70s,” she said.

Because Blough works with clients from Somerset, Cambria, Westmoreland and Indiana counties, much of her business is done from the seat of her car.

“I travel about 250 miles a day sometimes,” she said.

Blough said her job requires her to locate employment opportunities that are within her clients’ means. For an individual with a seizure disorder who is unable to drive, for example, Blough’s company tries to find workarounds to ensure employment.

“We would actually have to get out on foot and find a mile radius that they could walk to, to find employment,” she said.

According to Blough, the only thing clients need to know when joining an OVR program is to be open and honest with their career service representative.

If clients are placed in an environment they are not happy with, they will not excel at their career.

“We can teach them skills that are necessary to gain employment, and teach them how not to make their disability an obstacle to gain a job,” she said.

Blough said some employers in Somerset and Cambria counties can be very uneducated when it comes to disabilities and may not give potential employees a chance regardless of their educational background.

“With the technology and resources we have today, everyone can be employable,” she said.

Although every individual is different, Blough said that with the right resources and support, people with disabilities can become great employees.

“People with disabilities can excel if given the chance,” she said.