July 26, 2009 marked the 19th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). New Haven teens Tim Head, Jr. and Fatu Sheriff know first hand the importance of the Americans with Disabilities Act as they are both deaf. These individuals are busy working this summer for the City of New Haven’s Department of Parks, Recreation of Trees, in its tennis program, helping to give tennis lessons and preparing for the Pilot Pen.
These two young people were hired through a collaborative effort with the City of New Haven’s Youth@Work Program and the Department of Services for Persons with Disabilities through a grant funded by the State’s Connect-Ability Initiative. The City of New Haven is a local partner of the Connect-Ability Initiative, whose mission is to identify and remove barriers to employment faced by people with disabilities. New Haven’s focus is on youth ages 14-20.
Head and Sheriff were hired after John Pirtel, an employee from New Haven’s Department of Parks, Recreation and Trees heard of the New Haven’s initiative to promote the hiring youths with disabilities.
The ADA gives civil rights protections to individuals with disabilities and guarantees equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities to employment as well as other areas of our community that encourage them to be productive and full contributing members of their communities. Pirtel also knows first hand the importance of the ADA due his own hearing disability. Pirtel requested that they work together to find two youths with disabilities who could work with him this summer in the tennis program. Supports were put in place and Head and Sheriff were chosen to work with Pirtel who has served as a mentor to these two young people. Head and Sheriff have helped to teach sign language to other staff in the tennis program learning where everyone is experiencing the benefits of hiring someone with a disability. Head and Sheriff were hired based on their skills and have the same expectations as other employees.