It could have been seen as a step back or a step down, but for Don Taylor, any job was a step in the right direction.
"Five years ago, I was doing really well, really busy, but my business had faded to almost nothing," said Taylor, who had worked as an accounting consultant.
Then, he went to work at Affiliated Computer Services, or ACS, making $9 an hour.
That was more than a year ago, and three promotions later, his position and pay have changed. He's managing other people in the concierge department.
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Even as he moves up in the company, he's still grateful for a job.
Taylor, who is totally blind in one eye and susceptible to infections that are painful and difficult to treat in the other, was referred to ACS through the Kentucky Office for the Blind. He was hired as part of a push the company began about a year ago to recruit disabled workers.
The company, which has 28 locations across the country including 13 in Kentucky, has since hired 77 disabled workers in Kentucky, said Greg Dodge, a vice president of human resources for ACS, a team dedicated to recruiting suitable candidates for the program. ACS has about 4,000 employees in Kentucky.
ACS has been honored with the Partnership of the Year Award from Kentucky Office for the Blind and was named Employer of the Year by Goodwill Industries of Kentucky for 2008. The organization is reaching out to agencies that help people with disabilities across the state.
"They have been very cooperative," said Christopher Smith, executive director of the Kentucky Office for the Blind. "ACS has been a positive partner."
While society has a better understanding of disabilities than it had a generation ago, special efforts like that of ACS are still needed.
"Even though some doors have been opened for people with disabilities, there's still much more that needs to be done," said Smith, adding that his organization looks forward to a continued relationship with ACS.
There may be some job openings. ACS recently added a new client and will be hiring 215 more workers in Lexington and will be actively recruiting disabled workers for some of those spots.
"We've actually had people who have come to work for us that have been looking for jobs literally for years and haven't been given an opportunity," Dodge said. In addition to creating a diverse workplace, he said, "we'll retain these employees longer, they'll have a great work ethic and hopefully we can reward it."
Taylor said he'd been looking steadily for a year without getting so much as a single interview. He thinks his real disadvantage was his age. He's 53.
For most of his life, Taylor didn't really think of himself as disabled. The blindness in the one eye resulted from a childhood injury and he had coped with it all his life, including through college. But, once the economy tanked and consulting work dried up, he sought help through the Kentucky Office of the Blind.
"My work had fallen off so much, I went there to see if they could help pay the bills," he said.
To his surprise, he was referred to ACS. He was overqualified for his first job there, which amounted to data entry. At first taking the job was "kind of a shock," he said. But he was determined to make the best of it and he was "grateful to have a position," he said.
He has been assured by management that when other advancement opportunities come along, he'll be considered.
Taylor, who sometimes misses work because of flare-ups with his condition, said he feels comfortable that he won't be punished if he legitimately has to be absent so he can seek treatment or recover. "Here I don't feel like my disability or my age will hold me back," he said.
Plus, he said, he is inspired by others who have more severe challenges. Just within his department there is a young man who is deaf and can't speak and another who is paraplegic. He says both are excellent, dependable employees.
Chris Gilligan, manager of corporate communications for ACS, said the company made some modifications on Taylor's computer equipment to help him perform his job. But, he said, most accommodations for disabled workers are inexpensive. Studies show some 68 percent cost less than $500, and 25 percent have no cost attached.
Dodge said there are intangibles to seeing all kinds of employees reach their potential
"I think it changes anyone that is really exposed to it," he said. "It's been good for my heart, if you want to say it that way."