The Abilities Connection (TAC) in Springfield helps hundreds of people with developmental disabilities get jobs, training and support each year, and on Monday, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine visited for a firsthand look.
“Our overarching goal is that we want every Ohioan to live up to their full potential, which fits perfectly with what (TAC) is doing,” DeWine said.
DeWine, Department of Developmental Disabilities Director Kim Hauck, and Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities Director Kevin Miller toured the nonprofit TAC as part of Developmental Disability Awareness Month, which is observed in March.
“What they’re doing here is so aligned with what we really want to do, and that is to make sure every Ohioan has the ability to go to their God-given potential,” DeWine said. “The thing that they’re doing is getting more and more of their clients out into the community. More and more of them actually working in businesses here in Springfield and Clark County and this area.”
In 2022, TAC served 574 people and had 116 staff members.
“Our emphasis now is to train and get (people) experience in the community,” said CEO Jim Zahora. “For the first time in TAC’s long history, we are serving more in the community than in the facilities. We’re proud of that, and that’s going to continue because that’s the goal.”
Zahora said Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities is a great program that serves six counties. It helps people with the most significant disabilities find careers, and not just jobs, but by matching employers’ needs and the person’s strengths and abilities.
TAC also helps to fill a transportation barrier. Non-medical transportation started in 2013, but in 2020, one person who had a certificate and a job had to turn it down because they didn’t have transportation at certain hours. TAC was awarded a RidePlus contract in Clark County and added 16 vehicles and 20 staff members to give rides from 5 a.m. to 12 a.m. Monday through Saturday.
TAC now has 46 vehicles that 390 riders used in 2022 with a total of 47,000 trips provided and 423,000 miles driven.
DeWine said he wants more people to work in the community, noting the unemployment rate for those with disabilities in Ohio and across the county is two to three times higher than others.
“We have jobs that are there and things that need to be done, but businesses can’t fill these jobs, so getting people who are disabled and have the training they need, practice they need, then getting them out in the community to work at a job, it’s a great thing,” he said.
TAC also continues its work for the U.S. military by manufacturing new air cargo nets and repairing damaged cargo nets to like-new condition. Those are a critical part of airlift loads.
TAC, the sole source supplier of cargo nets to the U.S. Air Force, has provided jobs to more than 500 people with disabilities, has supplied more than one million nets, repaired more than 24,000 nets a year and produced more than 100,000 new nets a year.
Two other programs that TAC provides is Fresh Abilities, a pathway to employment in the food service industry, and Bridging Abilities, which provides help during the transition from high school to the job market.
Fresh Abilities is a restaurant on Clark State College’s campus that provides over 100 hours of both classroom and hands-on food service training at the same location. Bridging Abilities allows students to build practical and transferrable skills, prepares them for the transition from high school to employment and minimum wage work in the classroom.
Getting people with disabilities into the community to work helps fulfill a need in the community, DeWine said.
“I would say to businesses that are looking for someone, can’t fill a job, need someone to work: Don’t exclude the people with disability. Look to them because many of them are fulfilling jobs and doing an absolute phenomenal job,” he said.
DeWine has proposed a $701 million two-year budget to support Ohioans with developmental disabilities, which is almost double the previous proposed budget.
For more information, visit www.tacind.com.