Charleston urges employers to hire people with disabilities.

City of Charleston officials and advocacy groups will overview ways employers can include people with disabilities in their workforce at an Inclusion Summit next week. 

When an employer hires another candidate instead of someone with a disability who is just as qualified for the job, that's not only unfair and discriminatory. It's also against the law. 

That's what the city of Charleston aims to remind local employers next week at its Inclusion Summit, a discussion with Mayor John Tecklenburg and advocates for people with disabilities. The summit's goal is to encourage business owners and managers to fulfill their duty to hire workers with disabilities.

The Americans with Disabilities Act passed in 1990 and prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, transportation and public accommodations. Even so, those who have disabilities are one of the most under-employed groups in the country

Janet Schumacher, the city's ADA coordinator, said some local employers have told her that they want to hire people with disabilities, but for various reasons feel like they wouldn't be able to accommodate them.

"So we want to educate them about the agencies that can help them with hiring and retaining people with disabilities," Schumacher said. "My hope is that potential employers will understand that hiring somebody with a disability will likely improve their business, rather than being a problem for their business."

The summit will be held from 9-11:30 a.m. Friday inside the Dock Street Theatre, 135 Church St. 

David H. Zoellner, managing attorney for Protection and Advocacy for People with Disabilities Inc., will give the keynote address about the legal requirements for employing workers with disabilities. 

A panel of local business leaders — including Robert Miller, co-owner of Kickin’ Chicken, and Peggy Frazier, vice president of global talent acquisition and diversity for Blackbaud — will discuss their experiences working with employees who have disabilities.

Other local events next week centered on employing people with disabilities include: 

  • Disability Benefits and Employment workshop: S.C. Works and other organizations will give an overview of local agencies and resources that help connect people with disabilities to employment opportunities in the community. The free event will be held 1:30-3:30 p.m. Wednesday at Trident SC Works Center, 1930 Hanahan Road, North Charleston.
  • Charleston County School District 2017 Transition Fair: State and local agencies will present resources, strategies and other tools available to high school seniors with disabilities who will be graduating this year and entering college, the workforce or independent living. It will be held 8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Feb. 25 at West Ashley High School, 4060 W. Wildcat Blvd., Charleston.

The city of Charleston has also made other efforts to focus on challenges facing residents with disabilities. The city's Commission on Disability Issues was inactive for years but was revived last week when City Council made new appointments to the 15-member volunteer board. 

Reach Abigail Darlington at 843-937-5906 and follow her on Twitter @A_Big_Gail.

Abigail Darlington is a local government reporter focusing primarily on the City of Charleston. She previously covered local arts & entertainment, technology, innovation, tourism and retail for the Post and Courier.