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Hidden Talent Tour delivers powerful message of different abilities, inclusion

The MI Hidden Talent tour — led by Lt. Governor Brian Calley and Michigan Supreme Court Justice Richard Bernstein — stopped in Howell for Tuesday’s Good Morning Livingston program. The governor’s office heard that numerous business owners across Michigan are having a tough time filling open positions; the MI Hidden Talent tour showcases the skills of Michiganders with disabilities and encourages business owners and employers to hire them.

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Michelle Kozak of Asahi Kasei and Lt. Governor Brian Calley at the Michigan Hidden Talent Tour in Howell.

Calley told a story about a company on the west side of the state that hired an autistic worker with an affinity for numbers.

“He looked at spreadsheets and found an error here and there,” Calley said. After a while, the worker’s ability to catch errors by looking at spreadsheets saved the company $400,000.

“What people saw as a symptom of autism looks a lot like expertise to me,” Calley said.

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Michigan Supreme Court Justice Richard Bernstein talks about the importance of hiring people with disabilities.

Bernstein, who discovered the difficulty in finding a job as a lawyer just before he graduated from Northwestern University, said the only accommodation at the Michigan Supreme Court for his blindness is that case summaries are read aloud. While this new practice is beneficial for him, it has also proven valuable for all involved because it lets them to focus in different ways.

“(Those of us with disabilities) don’t suffer,” Bernstein said, “but we do struggle. And that’s what gives us strength and pride. And it’s through challenges and difficulties that we are survivors, and we learn what we are truly capable of.”

“We define most people by what they’re good at,” Calley said. “But we define those with disabilities by what they can’t do. We need to make a shift in mindset. We need to mitigate weaknesses and build on strengths.”

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Michelle Kozak, Asahi Kasei; John Moyer, Asahi Kasei; Michigan Supreme Court Justice Richard Bernstein; Howell Area Chamber of Commerce President Pat Convery; Michigan Lt. Governor Brian Calley; Rod Jones, Work Skills Corporation; and panel moderator Rich Perlberg, pose for a photo at the Tuesday, Nov. 10, Good Morning Livingston program.

Joining Calley and Bernstein on the panel were Rod Jones, CEO of Work Skills Corporation; John Moyer, CEOof Asahi Kasei; and Michelle Kozak of Asahi Kasei. The panel was moderated by Rich Perlberg.

Jones, who’s spent 38 years at Work Skills, said he loves what he does, and that hiring the disabled is “great for Michigan.”

Asahi Kasei’s Moyer echoed Bernstein that everyone has a unique set of skills that can be put to use in employment settings.

“When accommodations are made, it’s better for everyone,” he said.

Kozak, one of Moyer’s employees at Asahi Kasei, said she loves her clerical position.

“I don’t want to leave,” she said. “I want to stay.”

Kozak spoke to how important community support is to those with disabilities, and stressed the importance of clubhouses like Genesis House in Livingston County.

“People need to be needed,” she said. “It feels good to bring home a paycheck, and diversity in the workplace gives everyone a fresh perspective.”


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