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Disabled and well qualified

Abilities of Florida, a Clearwater-based agency that makes sure people with disabilities get a fair shot at marketing their abilities in the work place, still may be less than a household word around here.

But it is well-known in some pretty prestigious places.

It was announced late last year that Abilities had won first place in the 1991 National Search for Excellence Award in Rehabilitation for its Work Services in Industry program.

This program provides disabled adults the opportunity to work and socialize with non-disabled employees in conventional work places so they can learn to meet performance standards and employers' expectations.

Abilities was one of only seven agencies nationwide to recently receive the U.S. Department of Education five-year grants for special programs.

Abilities will use its funds _ $125,000 the first year _ to help disabled workers 45 and older find jobs.

These are people with employable skills, explains Pat Carlo, director of the program, which is called ACE for Adults with Career Experience.

Some are recovering from heart attacks, alcoholism or drug abuse. Some have to cope with seizures, back problems or life in a wheelchair.

They have skills but don't know how to market them. "Job-seeking can be a little overwhelming," said Frank DeLucia of Abilities. "It is an art."

Abilities helps these people determine what type of work they like and can handle, which may be different from what they had been doing. When necessary, they are taught resume-writing and interview skills.

Many of these people began their careers before the age of the computer, which is now an integral part of many job situations. So computer-literacy training is provided when necessary.

"You are going to apply for jobs in which you are not handicapped," Carlo tells them. "You're applying for jobs for which you are qualified," DeLucia adds.

Presently Abilities is working with a welder who suffered a severe back injury a year ago. Carlo said, "He's an old-world craftsman" who hasn't lost his skills, only his ability to do heavy lifting.

Abilities helps people like this get ready for the job hunt.

"It makes them feel good that they now have a plan," Carlo said. And then they are provided with leads about jobs, which are out there, despite today's economic turmoil.

If you want to know more, call Carlo at 538-7370.