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Rehabilitation classes help disabled people find jobs

POSTED: October 27, 2007 5:05 a.m.
When Pat Bloomquist was laid off from her embroidery job at Warren Featherbone in 2004, she wanted to find a job in an office. With a physical disability and no computer skills, she turned to the Georgia Department of Labor for help.

And it’s people like Bloomquist that the Department of Labor wants to spotlight at its Disability Awareness Breakfast to be held at 7:30 a.m. Wednesday.

Bloomquist has a degenerative disk in her back, has developed chronic fatigue, diabetes and fibromyalgia, characterized by widespread pain in muscles, tendons and ligaments. She said that she believes some of her disabilities are a result of multiple car crashes that she has survived.

After her job as an embroiderer came to an end, Bloomquist concluded that she was unable to work a job that required her to stand on her feet due to the pain it caused her.

"I liked the work I was doing before, but it was awful rough on me physically," she said.

She became involved with the Vocational Rehabilitation Program at the Department of Labor and they paid for her to take two six-hour computer classes where she learned Microsoft Word and Excel programs.

After a year of unemployment, Bloomquist was able to find a job with her new computer skills at the Gainesville-Hall County Neighborhood Revitalization Inc.

As a receptionist, she fields phone calls and does filing work for the agency that provides counseling and down payment assistance for low-income and first time home buyers.

"I love everything in an office that everyone else hates. I love the filing," she said. "You could stick me in a basement with nothing but files and I’d be so happy."

But the agency is able to employ Bloomquist a total of only 25 hours each week. She has been working there for 17 months, and said that she doesn’t make anywhere near what she used to at her old embroidery job.

"I’m happier because I do work that I like, but of course I miss the benefits and insurance I had before," she said. "At my age, I’ll be 62 in December, it’s a little rough."

Despite her dire need for dental work and medication, Bloomquist said she is glad to have a job she enjoys that enables her to help pay the bills.

She also said that she believes many disabled people are unable to obtain jobs because they do not have the skills to work with the technology required for many non-physically demanding professions.

"It’s difficult for people with disabilities, especially seniors, to find compatible work for their disability," she said.

The Georgia Department of Labor provides services such as supported employment and on the job training to help the disabled to find employment. The department also has one-stop career centers where the unemployed can access information on local and national job listings, as well as information on support services and unemployment insurance benefits.

The information and services at the career centers are also available to customers with visual, hearing, mobility and cognitive or language impairments.



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