Major organizations partner to close employment gaps for people with disabilities

Texas Association of Business and Special Olympics Texas have a new agreement that will increase employment

SAN ANTONIO – Blake McDonald spent his morning showing a KSAT crew around the Special Olympics Texas Headquarters in San Antonio.

That’s where he works, running the warehouse, organizing all sections, moving and lifting equipment.

“My position entails inventory of all the equipment that we have here, making sure that it gets out to the events, in the perfect condition,” McDonald said.

But McDonald also works inside the building, laser imprinting cups and helping make signs for events.

He’s a jack of all trades: strong, organized, and driven.

Those are the qualities that define McDonald, not the fact that he has high-functioning autism with multiple disorders.

Although, that’s something he likes talking about and is proud of.

“Special Olympics has really changed me because they’ve actually made me feel more welcome than anyone really ever has in the world. Like it’s it’s been a life changer for me,” McDonald said, beaming.

McDonald has worked for the organization for two years, but five years before that, he became a talented and competitive athlete.

“I’m in softball, basketball, bowling, floorball, which is kind of like floor hockey. And I’m also an e-sports,” McDonald said.

He also took advantage of the organization’s job and personal skills training programs.

“The athlete leadership program, which trains athletes to have bank accounts and have jobs and personal skills, outside of what we do in sports,” said Special Olympics Texas Director of Assets Jerry Cone.

Cone sees the program’s success, but then comes the job searches.

“Getting jobs is one that we would love to be able to help them do, but without the assistance of a bigger organization, we cannot,” Cone said.

In May, that changed.

The Texas Association of Business signed an agreement to work with Special Olympics Texas to close gaps and place more people with disabilities into jobs.

The signed memorandum of understanding establishes a framework for TAB and SOTX to:

  • Collaborate on policies that support employment and accessibility for individuals with disabilities
  • Promote the hiring and training of individuals with disabilities across various industries
  • Enhance awareness regarding the capabilities and potential of individuals with disabilities in the workforce
  • Foster connections between businesses, Special Olympics athletes, and the broader community
  • Support higher education programs that facilitate advanced learning for Texans with disabilities

“We were really excited about Texas Association of Business to come to us and say, ‘Hey, there’s a need.’ We have people coming to them and asking for individuals with intellectual disabilities to work in the workforce,” said Special Olympics South Region Executive Director Jessica Lizardo.

Lizardo said a smooth, established means of communication will help place employees quickly.

“We’ll say, ‘We have athletes over here. Let’s match you up with this business here,’ and we’ll be able to connect them. And then hopefully they’re a good fit,” she said.

Lizardo believes the partnership will help prepare businesses that actually do want to make these hires.

“A lot of people are very, intimidated or just don’t understand individuals who have intellectual disabilities. So being able to recognize that they can do the same skill sets as anyone else and be able to match them with another organization that’s the best fit for them,” she said.

“I think it’s opening the eyes of other businesses that wouldn’t normally look at people with intellectual disabilities and kind of look past them,” Cone said.

People like McDonald are thriving and setting an example for their peers and the businesses that need them.

About the Authors

Courtney Friedman anchors KSAT’s weekend evening shows and reports during the week. Her ongoing Loving in Fear series confronts Bexar County’s domestic violence epidemic. She joined KSAT in 2014 and is proud to call the SA and South Texas community home. She came to San Antonio from KYTX CBS 19 in Tyler, where she also anchored & reported.

Recommended Videos