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The Journal Gazette

Friday, June 09, 2017 1:00 am

City recognized as an Ability City

ASHLEY SLOBODA | The Journal Gazette

Fort Wayne – which has long been the Summit City and has earned the Playful City USA moniker in recent years – can now boast being an Ability City.

Mayor Tom Henry, among others, announced the distinction Thursday at a standing room-only crowd at Easter Seals Arc of Northeast Indiana.

Given by Ability Indiana, the designation recognizes the city's longstanding commitment to supporting the employment of individuals with disabilities at employment centers across the greater Fort Wayne area.

“Being an Ability City speaks volumes about our commitment to being a caring, giving and welcoming community,” Henry said in a statement. “Fort Wayne is a leader in job and business growth. It's because companies and organizations in our city have stepped up to include and embrace individuals with disabilities to be part of our local employment base.”

Fort Wayne is the third Ability City in Indiana. Indianapolis and Evansville are the others.

Municipalities are designated an Ability City, Town or County when they agree to purchase through Ability Indiana, which aims to increase employment opportunities for people with disabilities, according to the program's literature. Ability Indiana is authorized by state statute to give government entities the ability to contract with employment centers without going through the public bidding process, which Henry said can be time consuming.

There are more than 30 recognized Ability Indiana employment centers statewide, including three in Fort Wayne – Easter Seals Arc of Northeast Indiana, Highway Safety Specialists and Post Masters.

Sweetwater, Kroger and IHOP are among the local businesses that have employed people with disabilities, said Nelson Peters, a county commissioner and Easter Seals board member.

Easter Seals President and CEO Donna Elbrecht said workers tend to get positive feedback from employers. They are generally dependable and excited to be part of the workforce, she said.

One such worker, Jesse Brewer, is approaching his second anniversary with a YMCA site. He likes helping people, he said, summarizing his responsibilities as about “everything imaginable.”

Elbrecht sees broader value in the Ability City label. It could increase awareness that people with disabilities are good job candidates, she said.

“Everybody has something to offer,” Henry said.