General Manager of Mrs E's


As a Job Coach, or Employment Consultant, Mary finds employment for persons with developmental disabilities -- some with severe physical and mental limitations -- and then trains the newly-hired employees until they master the job.

General Manager of Mrs E's

It was during a 2007 conference in Wichita on entrepreneurship for people with developmental disabilities that the idea for a laundry service for beauty salons began to take shape.

General Manager of Mrs E's

Special Education teacher Andrea Zody said she thought the possibility of Annie volunteering at the Sternberg was an excellent suggestion.

General Manager of Mrs E's

Mrs. Schneider says the goal of transition is to prepare students for life outside school. This is not something emphasized in the past.

General Manager of Mrs E's

Allison’s mother, Karen Loveland, said Allison has worked in a day care, a flower shop, a nursing home, and fast food restaurants.

 is funded by the Kansas Council on Developmental Disabilities (KCDD). Design by Lawson Phillips Associates. Stories by Tim Hoyt. Photography by Lawson Phillips. Publication design by Arthur McCash and Lawson Phillips.

All the employees these managers refer to have disabilities. They were all rated as excellent hires; good for their business, good for the employee, and good for the community.

On you will find numerous stories of interest to employers about how employment success for people with disabilities is achieved. The stories will also show how the employee success brought with it business success.


  • An industrial laundry manager mentioned the good attitude his dock worker brings to the job. Michael’s attitude is second to none, he’s reliable, and he works well unsupervised, the manager said.
  • A nursing home director appreciated the new skills her medication aide developed to increase his work flexibility.
  • A theatre manager said co-workers and customers love his ticket-taker’s attitude and humor.
  • A restaurant manager pointed to reliability and the excellent attendance record of scores of young men and women he hires.


Employers in the stories also mention the good feeling they get from helping their own community and helping the people they put on the payroll.

They say hiring people with disabilities makes good business sense. The individuals hired become tax-paying citizens and contributors to the economy.

Employers mentioned the importance of the assistance they get from disability organizations, state vocational rehabilitation programs, or school community work programs in training the employees to do the job. That help, often in the form of Employment Specialists, makes success for both the business and the employee more likely.

Employers express positive attitudes toward workers with disabilities. They are willing to hire employees with extensive support needs when they receive good services from disability employment programs.

And individuals with disabilities themselves say they want to work and have made employment their priority. Supported and customized employment strategies are very good at meeting the hiring needs of the employer and the support needs of the employee, resulting in an alternative to expensive sheltered work and day services.




LaDena at Work

The caring attitude her supervisor describes appears to be part of her nature.

For almost a year now, LaDena Hempken has filled the job as a skills trainer in an Adult Life Skills center for KETCH, a Wichita agency that provides support and services for people with developmental disabilities.

Ms. Hemken works daily with severely disabled adults, many of whom have multiple disabilities and for the most part are non-verbal.. She said the job -- the first paying job she has held in 12 years -- gives a purpose to her life.

“I know what I’m doing every day when I wake up,” she said. “I’m helping my clients take care of themselves.”

It is not that Ms. Hempken hasn’t been busy during the years she was not employed. But because of the multiple disabilities she deals with herself -- including bipolar disorder -- rather than hold down a regular job, she regularly did volunteer work on a limited schedule. She volunteered as a tutor in schools, for the homeless, at the library, and, years ago, in an Alzheimer’s hospital unit.

“Even when I was not working, I was helping people,” she said. “Now I get to come to work to help people. .

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General Manager of Mrs E'sPart of it, he said, is because it’s the responsible thing to do. But restaurant general manager Mark Maranell also points to definite business benefits too. And over the years, the people with developmental disabilities he has hired have proven to be excellent employees.

Ekdahl Dining Commons, or Mrs. E’s, at 1532 Engel Road on the Kansas University campus in Lawrence, currently employs 11 people with developmental disabilities among about 150 full and part-time staff. Since 1996, Mrs. E’s has employed 156 people with developmental disabilities. The largest dining facility on campus, Mrs. E’s is part of  KU Dining Services, under the Kansas Memorial Unions Corporation.

Mr. Maranell explained that the restaurant employs many college students, but students do not often like to take the morning and lunch shifts. He said the partnership he has developed with Joblink, the employment program for people with developmental disabilities at Cottonwood, the Community Developmental Disabilities Organization in Lawrence, is a key to filling this time slot.


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Michael at WorkAt UniFirst Corporation industrial laundry in Wichita, Assistant Production Manager Jeff Hader said he knows that many businesses won’t even consider hiring people with disabilities. But Mr. Hader says this is a mistake, especially when he has an example like Michael Riddle.

“If you give him something to do, he doesn’t stop until it’s done,” Mr. Harder said. “His attitude is second to none, he’s reliable, and he works well unsupervised.”

Mr. Riddle, 22, has been at Unifirst for three years, going back even before the company, formerly called Western Uniform, was purchased by the national corporation. It was Mr. Hader who called the Kansas Elks Training Center for the Handicapped, or KETCH, to ask about hiring someone from the training center for janitorial work after he had another positive experience with hiring individuals from KETCH at a previous job.


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Tyler at WorkTrego Grade School special education teacher Cindy Malay offered to grocery shop for a friend in Wakeeney who has multiple sclerosis. No need, the friend told her, Tyler is at the store to help.

“The young man Tyler helps me put my walker aside and takes my list,” Mrs. Malay reported the woman said. “He knows where everything is.”

Tyler Stenzel, who has Williams Syndrome, a developmental disability, has advanced quickly since he started working at the Wakeeney Food Center in May of 2006 while still in high school. When he started the job tryout in school, a paraprofessional helped Tyler learn the grocery store job. Now 23, he’s bec ome a trusted full-time employee.

“He does everything adult employees do,” said Food Center Supervisor Cindy Welch. “He carries groceries out, he sacks, he faces groceries on shelves, he helps customers find stuff.

“And, this is very important, Tyler is in charge of making the coffee,“ Mrs. Welch added. “Customers love him and he loves customers.” .

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