Hiring a Person with a Disabiity: A Success Story

FULTON, NY – Despite the Americans with Disabilities Act, which took effect in 1990, some employers remain apprehensive about hiring a person with a disability. Betty Maute, Fulton Public Library director, is not one of them.

Mark McClave of Fulton
Mark McClave of Fulton replaces some books on the library shelf.

Still busy with the details of adjusting to a new job, she did not hesitate when the New York State Commission for the Blind and Visually Handicapped (CBVH) approached her last year about providing a work experience training (WET) opportunity for Mark McClave of Fulton, a blind client.

Work experience training lasts one to three months, with CBVH paying the client’s salary and the work site providing training and supervision. “When John Scott of CBVH approached me with this idea, I thought, ‘A blind person in a library?’ But, I believe in keeping an open mind,” Maute said. She learned about technology such as ZoomText, which enlarges text on a screen, and Pebble, a portable electronic magnifying device.

With these accommodations, McClave can check books in and out, shelve books, collect fines, make copies, send faxes, work at the library’s book sale, make signs and flyers, and keep up with paperwork. Maute said that McClave has a wonderful rapport with the library’s customers, getting to know them and recommending books.  “I get pleasure from hearing people get fired up about books,” he said. McClave is working on renovating the young adult collection, studying which books are popular. “It blows my mind, what Mark can do.” Maute said.

The original plan called for McClave’s WET to end, and for the library to hire him, in March. However, city budget cuts derailed the hiring part of the plan, and CBVH extended his WET until May with the hope that the budget issues will be resolved by then. “This is heartbreaking, because everyone loves Mark. He is one of the best employees a director could ask for,” Maute said.

If McClave is hired, he would work as a part-time library aide and study for a Master of Library Science degree. He already has a bachelors degree in sociology from SUNY Oswego. Maute said that she has been encouraging McClave to get his masters since their first meeting. Her advice for other potential employers of people with disabilities?  “Keep an open mind. You might see a skill you can utilize. Also, meet face-to-face before you make a decision. If I had just seen a resume, I probably wouldn’t have gone further,” she said.

Maute has special praise for CBVH’s WET program: “It’s a way to give a start to someone. It’s low risk for the employer; we don’t have to pay while we assess the person’s strengths and skills.”

Lise Mayo is placement coordinator for Blind Employment Services at AURORA of CNY, Inc. a nonprofit that administers the WET program for CBVH and often makes the initial match between client and employer. “Our goal is to find a good fit between the capabilities of the person and what the employer wants. We have access to exciting technology that enables people to do things that were impossible before,” she said.

Mayo said she sees employers becoming more receptive to learning about ways to make people with disabilities part of their workforce. “Co-workers benefit too when there is true diversity in the workplace,” she said.

As for her own part in the process, Mayo, who has a masters degree in rehabilitation counseling from Syracuse University, said, “It is such a rewarding career, to have the opportunity to see people experience success. I don’t know how many people see that in their lifetimes. It’s kind of a high when it all comes together and we open doors that might have been closed.”


  1. Our Library has really benefited from adding just one more wonderful person to their already impeccable workforce. I always look forward to visiting our Public Library, and the staff is just one of those reasons. Immediately upon walking in, you are welcomed with bright smiles and a warm “hello.” My mother and I have been patrons of our Library for a long time and we know the librarians and call them by name or vice versa. The staff gave their sincere condolences after my grandmother passed with compassionate words that followed. I don’t think there really is another place like our Library. It is a shame that they lost some of their funding due to budget cuts, while other departments go ahead and get raises. The Library could be a good role model to the other city offices as well. FYI, these are some good ideas to bring forth to a Common Council meeting, (if we ever get around to having another one.) Anyway, I could go on for seems like an eternity praising our Library, however, I would like to close by saying “congratulations” to Mr. McClave. I am sure to be visiting the Library soon again, for there isn’t anything else to do that is as wonderful in this city. I hope we never lose this wonderful artifact and that it stays apart of Fulton‘s landscape for another hundred years. I know that Mr. Kenyon’s idea that included bringing forth the Library budget to the school board will turn out to be a home run them. I know I’ll be supporting them if anyone else tries to put the Library’s future in jeopardy. But I am sure my friends at the Library are already aware, that I am. :) Sincerely, Nicholas Emrich

  2. I met Mr. McClave when I went to the library sale last Fall. What an enthusiastic and helpful employee. He helped me load my car (we buy quite a few items for our inventory which benefits us both), and smiled and chatted in the most friendly manner. I was very impressed when I heard that the sunglasses were due to a disability, not just a black eye (!), and the library had the brilliance to hire this great individual.

    I hope to see Mark NEXT sale. IF the library has any choice beyond just budget (how about a grant specially designed for him???), then they really truly should not lose him.

    Time & Again Books & Tea

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