Creating a more inclusive workforce one class at a time

By Tatiana Peralta 07/13/2021
Creating a more inclusive workforce one class at a time


In order to create true inclusion, organizations must walk the talk. One nonprofit agency in the SourceAmerica network is going above and beyond to touch the minds of business leaders and staff through American Sign Language (ASL) classes. Palmetto Goodwill Services has one goal in mind -- creating inclusive workforces nationwide.

With a shift to virtual events during the COVID-19 pandemic, nonprofit agency Palmetto Goodwill Services set on a mission to host online American Sign Language classes for anyone interested. The idea for public ASL classes ties directly back to workplace inclusion. Since the start of the program in 2020, Reggie Hughes, Palmetto’s Executive Director, has received testimonials from employers that no longer solely rely on interpreters to communicate with their employees who might have hearing impediments. “Knowing even the most basic form of ASL creates a friendlier environment for a segment of the population that often feels left behind,” he said. 

Building the foundation

Once the idea for the classes came to fruition, Hughes sent out invitations wide and far. Using his connections, he reached out to nonprofit agencies within the SourceAmerica® and Goodwill network, community members, and more. Within the first month, Palmetto Goodwill Services held five courses capped at 25 people each and even had to initiate a waiting list. While the organization is based in Charleston, South Carolina, nonprofit agencies from across the United States, including Hawaii and Guam, have participated.

Since the start of the program, momentum has continued to grow. “By the end of the year, I want to hit the 500 people mark for those who have completed the full set of ASL classes,” said Hughes. “The truth is we are well on track to meet that goal.”  

Hughes gives credit to SourceAmerica for the initial boost in numbers. At the onset, he reached out to SourceAmerica’s Learning Solution and Financial Assistance teams to ask if nonprofit agencies within its network could utilize training grant funds to cover the $300 cost of the classes. Without hesitation, SourceAmerica agreed to reimburse the cost to nonprofits willing to participate. 

Blazing a trail for the future 

Around 3% of Palmetto Goodwill Services’ AbilityOne employees are deaf. The organization recognizes the communications gap between those that are hearing impaired and those who are not and educating people in ASL is one way to close it. Hughes has seen first-hand the way employees who are deaf light up when others are able to communicate with them directly, and he hopes more nonprofit agencies will soon take advantage of this opportunity. While individuals from 20 states have already participated in the program, the agency’s goal is to touch the lives of people in all 50 states.

Palmetto Goodwill Services’ efforts have broadened to beyond the United States. In fact, the organization has allocated technology via a corporate donation received for $5,000 dollars to support the deaf community in the Virgin Islands. “Our ASL program is allowing us to reach people from all over the world,” said Hughes. 

If you’re interested in participating in the ASL classes, please email Reggie Hughes at rhughes@palmettogoodwill.org

To learn more about how your organization can employ people with disabilities, contact customerservice@sourceamerica.org.

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