Jobs for People With Disabilities

The Wisconsin Digital Imaging Project keeps economic growth within our borders

May 17, 2011

Unfortunately, the current political battles both in Washington and here in Wisconsin over budgets and debts and America’s economic future have obscured the fundamental challenges that confront us: job creation and economic recovery.

At its most obvious departure from sound policy and common sense this false dichotomy has caused great damage to two groups in particular—a willing and eager workforce, and businesses with needs in a knowledge-based economy that is global in scale. Compounding the devastating impact is its effect on a highly vulnerable yet desirable workforce—people with disabilities, and the reality that in an effort to compete, companies with significant business needs are sending work, and thus jobs, overseas, when the human capital they really need is right in their own communities.

One striking example is the exploding field of digital imaging. The transfer of records from paper to digital files can be an industry demand, as in the health care sector, or simply a bottom line driven efficiency benchmark. The fact is, it is an essential sound business practice that can be labor intensive and costly. And whether struggling to find reliable employees for this important work, or off-shoring the post-production aspects of the job, businesses are missing a golden opportunity to benefit both their bottom lines and their communities.

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services and the Pathways to Independence program have launched a project to recruit, train and support individuals with disabilities in the field of document transfer and storage preparation. Based on a Minnesota model that has led to job creation and business opportunities for hundreds of individuals with significant disabilities throughout Minnesota, the Wisconsin Digital Imaging Project aims to meet the digital transfer needs of private businesses, health care providers, schools and local governments and any other partners in need of such services.

Wisconsin Technology Council president Tom Still sees the value in this approach. “With the continued explosion in the use of medical records technologies, there are many opportunities for skilled workers, including those with disabilities, to work in this field,” says Still. “Health care quality, efficiency and delivery will increasingly be driven by greater use of digital records over time, which means the industry will need a skilled and diverse workforce.”

In other words, matching an underutilized but highly motivated workforce with a strategic, urgent need is smart business. And these are good jobs for people especially well suited to them, providing vital independence and self worth. Smart business and good jobs mean real change. The Wisconsin Digital Imaging Project is one key to that change.

Nancy Christy is owner of Meaningful People, Places & Foods. 

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