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Business Sense

Small Business Spotlight: Avery Hall Insurance Company

Avery Hall Insurance — an insurance group with offices in Eastern Maryland and Delaware — is on a mission to provide its customers and the companies it represents with the highest standard of service, professionalism and dedication. Key to delivering on that mission is the people it hires, which includes people of all abilities.

For many businesses, particularly small ones, it takes a great first experience hiring a person with a disability to help launch a disability inclusive work environment. That was certainly the case at Avery Hall, which was won over by the skills and talents of a young intern with a disability named Caitlyn.

The firm recruited Caitlyn through its local Business Leadership Network (BLN) chapter, the Eastern Shore Business Leadership Network (ESBLN), which contacted Avery Hall about a possible intern placement. While Avery Hall's hiring managers had some initial trepidations about the prospect of hiring an intern with a disability, due merely to their lack of experience and exposure, their concerns were allayed by ESBLN, which clearly explained how Caitlyn's skills matched the company's needs.

The next step was the interview. Caitlyn, who uses a walker, expressed her eagerness to learn and her excitement about the internship opportunity. She impressed Avery Hall's hiring manager with her confidence, qualifications and ambition, and she was quickly offered the job. Caitlyn joined Avery Hall three days a week for half-day shifts after her morning at school. She commuted by bus and proved herself to be a loyal and productive worker, eager to learn any task her colleagues were willing to teach her. Caitlyn began her internship learning basic computer processing, and her skills grew from there. Avery Hall ultimately offered her a part-time position, and today she continues to tackle any task that comes her way.

Since hiring Caitlyn, Avery Hall has also hired another full-time employee with a disability named Lauren. Because Lauren uses a wheelchair, the company installed a lift to allow barrier-free access to its second floor, which enables both Lauren and Caitlyn to participate in company luncheons and parties. Lauren has obtained her Property & Casualty insurance license, and is moving through the channels at the company very quickly.

"They say that employers who offer internships for people with disabilities are more likely to hire a person with a disability than those who do not. That's certainly been the case at our company, where one great intern served as a gateway to a disability-inclusive workplace culture," said Avery Hall's Assistant Vice President  Angie Strouth.

For more information on internships and other leading practices, access Small Business and Disability Employment: Steps to Success, which provides practical guidance for small businesses on how to recruit and retain qualified people with disabilities.

Editor's Note: This is the latest installment in a periodic series of "Business Sense" issues showcasing the experiences of actual small businesses that are working to foster a disability-inclusive workplace culture. If you know of additional small businesses we should feature here, please tell us about them by contacting the Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion (EARN)

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