Why can’t Brattleboro businesses hire people with disabilities?

BRATTLEBORO — I saw on BCTV that the Selectboard and Downtown Brattleboro Alliance want to advertise for gay and lesbian people to come visit Brattleboro, and I'm all for that. I am an ally of gay and lesbian people.

One of the problems with the Downtown Brattleboro Alliance is that they talk about local food and local business but then don't talk about inclusion in the workplace. What I'm talking about is that I see no disabled people who are working in downtown businesses, and I think that's a big mistake.

Two agencies in Brattleboro, HCRS and Families First, support people who are disabled. When I was working for the Riverview Café downtown 20 years ago, the owner, Tristan Toleno, had so many people working who were disabled that he got an award from the state about being the most inclusive employer.

I recently got a job as the host at the 99 Restaurant. The customers love me, and the leadership loves me, too. I greet customers, and when a man or a woman has a military hat, I thank them for their service, and people love that. A little goes a long way.

I realized that if a big corporation like the 99 hired me, there is no reason why local businesses downtown cannot hire people with disabilities.

I would like the Selectboard to take a hard look at the bias that goes on in some of these businesses. I know disabled people can be an asset to businesses, so I hope that we can do better.

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