Springfield, OH, USA, April, 2018 -- A years-long partnership between the Goodwill Easter Seals and a Springfield call center provides employment opportunities for nearly two dozen workers with impaired vision, including blindness.
The Red Roof Inn Contact Center, at 1650 Upper Valley Pike in Springfield, has more than 200 employees, said Linda Gillis, director of the contact center. About 10 percent of the center’s workforce has some form of visual impairment.
The businesses has steadily added visually-impaired employees over the years in part to provide job opportunities that might otherwise not exist, Gillis said. Several of them have earned promotions, she said.
"Their quality is off the chart," Gillis said of those the company has hired through the partnership.
Bev Watkins, director of community placement from Goodwill Easter Seals, said the partnership was developed almost by accident about six years ago. The nonprofit was working to find employment for workers with visual impairments who were struggling to find work in the region, often after being displaced from other jobs.
At the same time, the call center was looking to fill vacant positions and wanted to work with Goodwill to overcome barriers to employment.
One of the key problems was that existing computer programs designed to allow visually impaired workers to use a computer couldn’t communicate with the Red Roof Inn’s reservation system. Workers at the call center are tasked with taking calls from customers, answering questions and taking reservations for the chain’s properties.
The call center was willing to try to find a solution, Watkins said, while that may not have been the case elsewhere.
"It’s a part of their culture that they explore what the accessibility needs are for all their employees," Watkins said.
The agencies received a boost when they discovered Mark Tudela, a mechanical engineer who owns MJT Engineering Services. A former employee at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Tudela started his own business in Springboro that specializes in developing solutions so disabled Ohioans can find and retain employment.
He developed code and set up keystroke commands that allowed Red Roof Inn’s online reservation system to communicate with existing programs so people with vision loss could independently use a computer with a keyboard.
That allowed vision-impaired workers at the call center to take reservations over the phone, and use keystrokes on their computer to enter the information into the Red Roof Inn’s reservation system. The training was often challenging for workers, who have to simultaneously listen to a customer, listen for the prompts from the computer program and answer the customer’s questions.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
Published: Wednesday, April 4, 2018
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