Adults with disabilities in Indiana currently have restrictions placed on how many hours they can work, and how much they can be paid in order to be able to retain their disability benefits. ADEC’s Employment Services department helps businesses navigate those rules, in addition to assisting in the training process, accompanying the employee to their new job when they are getting started, and then continuing to check in with employer and employee.
Almost two years ago, in April of 2021, Len Morris, CEO of Viewrail, had the idea to partner with ADEC to begin hiring employees with disabilities. A department was created to accommodate the new employees needs and abilities, and the department was eventually dubbed The Pit Crew by the very employees for whom it was created. The department serves the important purpose of sorting and packaging the kits that are used to assemble some Viewrail products.
The Pit Crew now consists of 6 individuals who work with ADEC’s Employment Services department, who prepare them for, and then help them maintain, employment. Viewrail CEO Len Morris has been pleased with the department’s progress and growth, stating “ADEC has made it extremely easy and effective to work with adults with disabilities. They have provided the screening services and the other support that we needed to fulfill the mission that we couldn’t do on our own.” Len has been so impressed that he now makes it a rule to always have employees with disabilities make up 1-2% of Viewrail’s staff.
JJ Johnson, Viewrail’s Chief Operations Officer, says that he is gratified that the department as a whole is so full of energy and excitement to do the necessary work behind the scenes that so many people take for granted, “the nuts and bolts.” The Pit Crew have even initiated the inclusion of a card in every kit they package, informing the customer that their kit was packaged by The Pit Crew, with a picture of the group, and a little info about who they are. The group has grown close and are happy to come to work with their friends every day. On Fridays they traditionally all go to lunch together at a nearby Culvers, now with their new supervisor, Bob Miller.
Bob Miller has only been the supervisor of The Pit Crew for four months. He was previously a teacher and coach for 34 years, and one of the cool surprises that came with his new role at Viewrail was that one of his Pit Crew employees was a former student. The Pit Crew member/former student is bashful and quiet, so it was a nice surprise for him as well. Speaking to Bob, you can tell that he has a real affection for his crew already. He says that he looks forward to work, “Every morning Spencer walks in and greets me with a ‘Morning Bob!” Bob continued “The camaraderie and good friendship makes the group function really well and it’s a fun group to be with.”
When asked what advice he would give to another organization that wanted to have more inclusion, but didn’t know where to start, Bob answered “I would reach out to ADEC. They’ve been incredibly helpful. I would definitely encourage it.” (Hiring someone with disabilities.) “I think one of the things that I have been really impressed with (by this group of guys) in the last four months is that they are incredibly conscientious and hard workers. They have a great attention to detail, and they are at work every single day.”
All six members of the Pit Crew say they love their jobs and coming to work every day, but Viewrail has been an especially good fit for one Pit Crew member. Ray suffered a stroke at 54 that left him with some diminished capacity and memory loss. When he regained consciousness after the stroke, the doctor informed him that the woman at his bedside was his wife, and Ray didn’t even remember that he was married. Ray has struggled to adapt to his new normal, which hasn’t been easy. He is frequently frustrated by the knowledge that he used to be able to do and understand more and he says, “I just wish I knew how to get back to normal.”
Ray is still married and is able to drive but found it difficult to return to the workforce. His previous manufacturing job was too stressful because it required him to learn to operate too many different machines and to work at a faster pace than he was able.
Ray has now been working at Viewrail for more than a year and a half (it will be two years in June) and said that his ADEC job coach is “awesome. Because he got me in here.” He usually works on his own, stamping out parts, which he says he enjoys as he’s a bit of a loner. He’s grateful for his co-workers, however. “It’s totally different working with a normal bunch of people, than working with a bunch of people out of work release. I get along with them here a lot better.”
Current Chief Leadership Officer, Troy Burns, has been with Viewrail just under seven years, and was involved in the building and oversight of the Pit Crew team for a few months when they were just getting started. He told us that one of the best things about working with ADEC Employment Consultants is how helpful and available they are to talk through any challenges. Everyone that we spoke to at Viewrail who has worked with The Pit Crew also agreed that they’ve been pleasantly surprised at how dedicated the employees have been, with Troy commenting that “This group has a strong commitment to their customers.”
When asked what advice he’d give to other businesses who are considering hiring people with disabilities, Troy had this to say “Just do it. You can figure it out as you go. Don’t let the unknown stop you. Start small, but please don’t limit what they could potentially do. Dream big. These guys dream big every day, and they’ve brought more value to our company than I ever could’ve imagined.”