Job Seekers with Disabilities Linked to Employers, Recruiters

OHSU event looks like any other networking gig – just with more wheelchairs, service dogs, walkers, canes, sign interpreters and even “facilitator catalysts” for the shy.

Two years ago, Emily Purry’s husband had to nudge her out of the car to attend the event as a job seeker. “I didn’t know how to start conversations,” Purry said. “I just listened in.”

This week, she spoke from the podium as a full-time office assistant for Multnomah County’s Department of Human Services because “life might be boring if I didn’t stand up in front of 500 people.”

“Let go of all those defeating thoughts,” she told the crowd. She worried about her progressive vision loss but here she said “here no one cares. They’re here to see you for the skills you have to offer. Be confident in your abilities.”

Other gems of wisdom Purry gave the crowd: “Never use your disability as an excuse, “it takes courage to fight every day to achieve your goals, nothing worth it is ever easy.” She also said her brother, fresh from eight years at Adidas, was among the crowd. “Find him and hire him,” she advised.

Chrystalle Hester came because she’s changing careers after years in information technology, and said she hopes to soon be “doing something that helps people” in hospitals.

Mark Woodlief who works for Portland Center Stage says he’s been coming “since it began” six years ago as neither a job seeker nor employer but to “sustain this energy” of “employers making a commitment and willingness to hire people with disabilities.”

“The main goal for this evening is to get individuals with disabilities and agencies and business to connect,” said Steve Hanamura, founder and president of Hanamura Consulting, Inc. and the master of ceremonies for the evening who said he’s been “blind all my life.”

Jan can be reached at [email protected]

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