The WSCCI Foundation supports innovative programs that benefit and empower the community. Projects include:
This project placed more than 350 with disabilities in jobs throughout northern Illinois.
This collaborative effort with employers impacted more than 150 people with autism and other communication disorders.
This program has helped young adults with developmental disabilities achieve maximum self advocacy and goal building skills. It created a 2-week advocacy academy in which participants learn how to advocate for their dreams. It built confidence, motivation and enhanced skill sets among the program's 50 participants.
This program provided disabilities training and materials to area businesses, enabling for economic growth along with better service for all consumers.
In the News
The West Suburban Chamber of Commerce and Industry Foundation was recognized in the La Grange Doings for their development of the Improving Customer Service for People with Disabilities Training Program.
Video Offers Tips on Serving Customers with Disabilities
Rob Pritts, a certified public accountant for a La Grange educational services agency, stopped for a cup of coffee at a convenience store and was surprised by the owner’s reaction.
As Pritts, who lives with cerebral palsy, poured the steaming drink, his hand shook and the coffee spilled. Annoyed, the owner warned him not to come back, because he had made a mess.
Pritts shared his experience in a new video, “Improving Customer Service for People with Disabilities,” produced by the West Suburban Chamber of Commerce and Industry Foundation. The video was shown May 5 to Chamber members and area residents with disabilities who took part in the production.
“What I find is that people just don’t know how to react,” said Pritts, who works for the La Grange Area Department of Special Education. He also hosts as Internet radio talk show at www.disabledradio.com.
“This video is a start,” he said. “There’s a lot more things we should talk about.”
Jason Welde of La Grange, who has cerebral palsy and is studying to take entrance exams for law school, also appeared in the video. In his scene, Welge expresses his preferences while ordering a burger from a server at Palmer Place in La Grange, where he’s been a customer for years.
“The video is important from my perspective,” he said. “I feel that somebody with a disability who gets out in the community and is active has an opportunity to educate people.”
“My role is to be who I am, and who I am isn’t a person with disability. I’m a person who happens to have a disability that needs to be managed.”
Karen Steffen, vocational services director for LADSE, said the video, financed by a federal grant, was an outgrowth of a joint project between the Chamber foundation and LADSE on helping people with disabilities better advocate for themselves.
“One student set a goal of going out and buying a pair of jeans,” Steffen recalled. “What we found was the customer service varied greatly.”
“Wouldn’t it be great for the business community to help them understand how important this market is,” she said.
James Emmett, a consultant to businesses on serving people with disabilities, narrated the video and explained the importance of customer service.
“One in 5 Americans, or 54 million, have a disability,” Emmett told Chamber members. “As our population gets older, this group will grow. The disability community is one of the most brand-loyal groups.”
In addition to Palmer Place, other are businesses featured in the video are Community Bank of Western Springs and Village True Value Hardware, also in Western Springs.
The businesses were selected by the area residents surveyed for the video as examples of firms offering good customer service to patrons with disabilities, Steffen said.
Although clerks, servers or cashiers often seek to be helpful, it’s best to follow the lead of the customer with the disability by asking how to be of service and then waiting for a response, Emmett advised in the video. Courtesy and patience are essential, he said.
Kathleen Sperio, vice president and branch manager of Inland Brand and Trust in Countryside, said she was impressed with the video available on the Chamber foundation’s website at www.wsccif.org
“We have a couple of people with disabilities as customers. We do a pretty good job of taking care of them,” Sperio said. “We open up doors, sit with them and help them with their needs at a desk, rather than in front of a teller.”
“This program goes over the things we need to do,” she said.