America Supports You: Bike Ride Ends with Appeal for Jobs
By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 6, 2006 Jeff Klare put his bicycle where his heart is Oct. 1, and set out on a 300-mile trip to raise awareness of the need for more corporations to hire workers with disabilities.
Eric Madaus, 8, leads Jeff Klare, chief executive officer of Hire Disability Solutions, to the finish of a 300-mile bike ride at the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial in Washington, D.C., Oct. 6. Klare began his ride at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge in New York to bring attention to the need for more corporations to hire workers with disabilities. Madaus suffers from spina bifida. Photo by Samantha L. Quigley
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
“There are so many veterans returning to the United States from Iraq and Afghanistan with disabilities. They didn’t ask to be disabled,” Klare, chief executive officer of Hire Disability Solutions, said. “We need to have corporations give them new skill sets, if necessary, and give them a job.”
Hire Disability Solutions helps give that opportunity to all who want a chance to succeed, according to the organization’s Web site.
The “Opportunity for Success Ride” began at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge in New York in a rainstorm and concluded at the Roosevelt Memorial here today in very similar weather. The weather didn’t dampen Klare’s spirits, though.
“Unless I could do this on a camel, this is really the way to draw attention,” he said.
Klare collected resumes from individuals with disabilities at each stop he made on his way to Washington. The resumes will be posted on Hire Disability Solutions online Career Center, which is powered by Monster, a global online careers and recruitment resource. Monster also powers USA Jobs, the federal government’s official job site, as well as Miltary.com.
Aside from raising awareness, the ride will benefit five nonprofit organizations financially: the Coalition to Salute America’s Heroes, the East Coast Greenway, the National Disability Rights Network and the American Breast Cancer Foundation, Klare said. A link for each group appears on the Hire Disability Solutions Web site, allowing donations to go directly to a donor’s intended recipient.
The organizations were chosen because they support people with disabilities, he said.
“The Coalition to Salute America’s Heroes has offices at Walter Reed (Army Medical Center) and provides opportunities for these young men and women to return to the work force,” he said. “We’ve got to get corporations to understand (that) just because a person might have one arm or one let, it doesn’t meant that they can’t operate a computer (or) they can’t be an accountant.
“This is all about employment,” Klare added. “It’s not about the disability.”
One of the organizations, the Coalition to Salute America’s Heroes, is dedicated to helping severely wounded or disabled veterans of operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. The coalition also is a member of America Supports You, a Defense Department program highlighting ways Americans and the corporate sector support the nation’s servicemembers.
The coalition benefits from Klare’s efforts in two ways, Jane Ivey, director of private sector employment for the Coalition, said. The first is the visibility the Opportunity for Success Ride brings to the coalition and its efforts to educate corporations about the positive aspects of hiring a disabled veteran.
“We have partnerships with a number of organizations that have a specific program (in place for) hiring disabled veterans,” she said. “We are out there marketing that idea to other corporations to help make them aware that there are those programs, and they do work.”
The fundraising Klare’s organization is doing for the coalition through its Web site also helps tremendously, Ivey said.
“We are a nonprofit, so the extent we are out there in the public serving the people with disabilities is controlled by the amount of donations that come into our organization,” she said.
Klare also will deliver an “Appeal for Inclusion” to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in the future. The appeal is a plea to corporate America asking it to devote the necessary resources to promote the inclusion of individuals with disabilities, according to the Hire Disability Solutions Web site.
He said the Americans with Disabilities Act, passed in 1990, prohibits discrimination, but in reality, does little to actively help those with disabilities secure employment. That needs to change soon, Klare said.
He noted that what happens now would likely affect Eric Madaus, 8, who suffers from spina bifida, and other young people with disabilities. They will need, and want to hold meaningful jobs in the future.
Madaus, from the D.C. area, led Klare to the finish line on a special bike.
“If not now, when?” Klare asked. “If companies don’t look to employ people with disabilities now, what’s his future going to be like?”