Indianapolis, Ind. -- For more than 15 years, Jeff Calnan, Customer Success Manager of Latitude by Genesys, has been volunteering and advocating to enrich the lives of children and adults with disabilities. Today, we proudly share the news of his oral testimony to The General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ Joint Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities in support of Bill H-198, an Act to promote competitive, integrated employment for people with disabilities.
Legislative Advocacy Efforts
On November 22, 2021, Mr. Calnan testified in support of Bill H-198, a bill sponsored by Massachusetts Representative Michael S. Day. The overall purpose of the State Use Act is “to encourage and assist persons with disabilities to achieve maximum personal independence through useful and productive employment by ensuring an expanded and constant market for services delivered by persons with disabilities, thereby enhancing their dignity and capacity for self-support and minimizing their dependence on welfare and entitlements.” His oral testimony was based on personal, long-term involvement with several organizations that enhance the quality of life for persons with disabilities of all ages.
The Heart That Gives, Gathers
As a young man, Jeff was impacted by the phrase “The heart that gives, gathers.” For more than a decade, he has been helping to change the conversation around people with disabilities. Outside of family members, people with special needs may have few to no friends. Without the opportunity to develop friendships that are freely given and chosen, many people with special needs feel alone and isolated. Employment is a key part of living a meaningful and inclusive life and developing a feeling of pride and independence. Everyone deserves respect and the opportunity to feel valuable; Mr. Calnan’s passion for supporting Bill H-198 stems from his longtime volunteerism and deeply-rooted friendships within the special needs community.
“I care about everyone under our umbrella, but honestly, I’m most concerned about everyone outside our umbrella. Work gives individuals a purpose and the unemployment rates for people with disabilities are very high,” says Mr. Calnan. “What I think many employers don’t see is the competitive advantage of hiring persons with disabilities, especially our veterans with physical disabilities. Retention rates soar, absenteeism drops, and companies can take advantage of Work Opportunity Tax Credits (WOTC) where applicable. Disabilities can be visible and invisible. This bill promotes an inclusive hiring model and increases diversity in the workplace.”
Jeff’s involvement in the special needs community began in 2006 when a local volunteer soccer coach with TOPsoccer, a US Youth Soccer outreach program for athletes with intellectual, emotional, and or physical disabilities, was unable to continue in the role. Knowing how difficult it can be to find reliable volunteers and not wanting to see the local chapter dissolve, Jeff stepped into the role of volunteer coach and since then, has also inspired his children to become involved. Shortly after his initial season with TOPsoccer, Jeff started a basketball program for children with special needs. He continued in these primary coaching roles for many years and still continues to volunteer as a TOPsoccer substitute coach when needed.
In 2012, Mr. Calnan transitioned his focus to Best Buddies, an international nonprofit organization that pairs adults with intellectual disabilities with their non-disabled peers in one-to-one friendships. Currently active as a peer buddy within his local chapter of Best Buddies Citizens, he works at a grassroots level to increase awareness and participation in a variety of Best Buddies programs in middle schools, high schools, and the broader community. Best Buddies was created to establish a global volunteer movement that creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment, leadership development, and inclusive living for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). Jeff has been active within the organization for almost a decade and throughout that time, has repeatedly encountered situations in which people want to help or get involved, but don’t know how. His advice? “Just ask.”
Inclusive Employment Opportunities
One of the greatest inspirations for Jeff’s testimony in support of Bill H-198 is InspiriTec, a company that provides award-winning call center and help desk services. What makes InspiriTec unique is its workforce; InspiriTec employs veterans, professionals with disabilities, and disadvantaged individuals. Their “Return on Inspiration” model helps people to feel more independent and successful in work and life. Through his volunteering with Best Buddies, he has seen how employment provides a sense of purpose, worth, and community.
Jeff finds inspiration in every day, and in particular, every interaction with his peer buddy. “Every single action that an individual takes in support of people with disabilities gathers to create a collective impact that moves our needle forward,” continues Mr. Calnan. “Even the tiniest stone can create a thousand ripples. Every human deserves the opportunity to work, be compensated fairly, and succeed. My mission is to put smiles on faces, and my dream come true would be to see this bill pass and facilitate more contracts with more companies.”
If you, a family member, or a friend would like to get involved or learn more about employment opportunities for persons with disabilities, please visit:
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