On Finches, Disability, Business, and the Kingdom

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A few weeks ago, my wife Bev found three tiny birds’ nests in the small maple tree in our front yard. A few days later, I saw finches hopping about the branches. So we decided to get a finch feeder to hang in the tree.

Bev bought a feeder prefilled with Nyger seed which soon had gold finches gathered on its perches. What a gift from God!

But the feeder itself delighted us as well. It’s a Mr. Canary feeder manufactured by the Mitchell Marketing Group from Carmel, Indiana. The packaging features the symbol of a person in a wheelchair, with this explanation, “Since [1995], the Mr. Canary® line has been produced entirely by qualified workers with disabilities.”

It’s very difficult to find reliable statistics on employment of people with disabilities, though I have read before that about 80% of people who are deaf and about the same percentage of people who are blind are unemployed or underemployed. 

Many people with disabilities carry excellent qualifications, but employers write them off out of ignorance or fear. Diversity, Inc. has a fine little article on myths of hiring people with disabilities. 

Thanks, Mitchell Marketing Group for recognizing and hiring qualified workers who have disabilities. If you think this is a good idea, send them a note of thanks. Walgreens is making an intentional effort to hire people with disabilities as well.

The Lord clearly welcomed people with disabilities into his life, and told one of his most famous stories about hospitality toward people living with disabling conditions (Luke 14:15-24) If you are employer, please considering becoming intentional about hiring people with disabilities. It’s good business strategy and moves your business a bit closer to the coming kingdom of God.

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Guide

Here's a follow-up. After writing the blog entry above, I sent a note to Mr. Canary about it. I received the following response which appears here by permission of the author. Mark

Dear Mark,

Thank you so much for you kind note.

My sister and I own our company, our Dad developed the Mr. Canary feeder. We are the only two actual employees of our company, we rely on our contracted workforce 100%...and they never, NEVER let us down. Honestly, it's the smartest business decision we ever made, and quite frankly, it's probably the reason we're still in business today. When we entrepreneur-types begin thinking about starting our own business, our plans usually focus on the idea of doing the thing we're good at and the things we like to do. That's what lights the entrepreneurial fire, but it's a bit of a slippery slope. The reality is that once you start a business there are so many things to manage that you may NOT be so good at, that you can end up with very little time and energy to devote to the things you CAN do well. That's the beauty of our fabulous workforce, they do what they do so well (production/shipping) that we never have to worry about it, which gives us the time we need to devote to sales, marketing, product development...the stuff we like. These overlooked and underutilized workers are a treasure trove for small operations, it's not altruism, it's good business. We mention it on our packaging because we want to spread the word. This collaboration strengthens our community...and it strengthens our business. What could be better?

You can't begin to know how your note lifted my spirits. Today, for all kinds of reasons, it's especially appreciated.

Yours truly,
Jan Long

Guide

Just read a report on disability and employment dated April 20, 2010. In short, as bad as unemployment is, it's 40% worse for people with disabilities.