Cook County Funds Program to Support Suburban Residents with Disabilities Find Career Pathway Opportunities

Career Pathway Navigator Program Helps Job Seekers with Disabilities Utilize the Partnership’s Network of Agencies and Services

(COOK COUNTY, IL)— Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle today announced the launch of the Career Pathway Navigator Program to help suburban Cook County residents with disabilities leverage the Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership’s(The Partnership) network of programs and services.  The Partnership will oversee the program with its partner ScaleLit, who will ensure a Navigator is available at the five American Job Centers (AJCs) in suburban Cook County. The Navigator program is currently offered at the five AJCs in the City of Chicago.  Residents can learn more about the suburban Cook County program by visiting this link at

“I am proud that the County’s investment of federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA)funds will make the services of our public workforce system more accessible to residents with disabilities,” said Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. “Job seekers with disabilities offer valuable skills and abilities to employers and are too often overlooked by the business community. It is our hope this program will assist those residents and help them find meaningful careers that meet the needs of today’s employers.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention define a disability as any condition of the body or mind (impairment) that makes it more difficult for the person with the condition to do certain activities (activity limitation) and interact with the world around them (participation restrictions). Further, the Social Security Administration lists medical criteria that apply to the evaluation of impairments, which include anxiety and depression, in adults and children. 

"As elected officials, we must prioritize accessibility with everything we offer our residents.  The Career Pathway Navigator Program centers opportunities around access in the 16th District and throughout Cook County," said Commissioner Frank J. Aguilar.  "We are meeting residents where the need is, in this case, helping break the barriers and the red-tape that can prevent those with disabilities from finding meaningful work.  Everyone has something to contribute to their communities, and I am thrilled that this program will help bring more of our residents into the workforce with jobs they can be proud of."

Today’s announcement comes due to the County’s investment of $770,000 per year for three years, or a total of $2.3 million, of federal ARPA funds into the Navigator program. The funds were allocated through the County’s Bureau of Economic Development to support the addition of navigators to serve job seekers with disabilities at the suburban Cook County AJCs, connecting them to career coaching, resume writing and more. These services foster a positive job search experience, at no cost, to the resident or the employer. Approximately 15% of the world’s population, nearly one billion people, live with some form of disability. There are 40.5 million people with disabilities in the United States, or approximately 12.6% of the population. Closer to home, in Cook County more than 520,000 Chicagoland residents, or approximately 10.1% of the population, report having a disability. 

“Roughly 5% of the people The Partnership serves through federally funded jobs programs report they have a disability,” said Partnership Director of Community Innovations and Impact Claudia Cattouse-Regalado. “Over half of the people with disabilities we serve have a high school degree and, with our assistance, are ready and able to enter the job market.  We are proud to partner with President Preckwinkle and Cook County to add these navigators to the services we offer job seekers with disabilities in suburban Cook County.” 

Ramya Tallarovic is the Chief Financial Officer of Beds Plus Care, Inc., a nonprofit entity whose mission is to help those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. Through workforce development funding they receive from The Partnership, they are able to hire unemployed or under employed job seekers to work for their organization. 

“More than a year ago, we hired Justin Herbst. He has Cerebral Palsy and uses a wheelchair.  He works at our front desk and is often the first voice people hear when they call us,” says Tallarovic. “He is a shining light in our organization. His calm demeanor with our clients --who are often distressed when they call us --is incredible. His abilities outshine his physical challenges every day.”

"People with disabilities are an underutilized group. We are hungry and motivated to work,” said Herbst, who has served in the role of receptionist at Beds Plus for almost two years. “As a person with a disability, it is our right to be included in the community and employment. Beds Plus provided me with a bigger sense of empathy toward people without shelter. Working at Beds Plus allowed me to grow my professional skills. My employer encouraged me to be myself. " 

Justin went on to say that when people call Beds Plus they are often emotional and sad and looking for shelter. He explains that he uses his positivity and compassion to regulate callers’ emotions and link them to the proper counselor. “I am a talker and Beds Plus used this to maximize advantage,” he explains.

Other disabilities may not be “seen” as clearly but can also create barriers to employment.

“I have anxiety. Looking for jobs can cause me so much stress and can make me so anxious that I have had panic attacks in the past,” said Film Hall, assistant career pathway navigator at ScaleLit whose pronouns are they/them. “Working with an American Job Center, I haven't been nearly as scared or anxious around looking for a job change. I'm extremely grateful for their understanding as well as them connecting me with the ScaleLit staff who've been so amazing to work with and learn from.”

In addition to this program, The Partnership's network of AJCs offers a range of no-cost employment services for adults, out-of-school youth, job seekers, incumbent workers (those currently employed), and employers, such as interview preparation, resume building, career planning, and more. The AJC network can be reached at 1-800-720-2515 or by visiting


About The Partnership 

Created in 2012, The Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership (The Partnership) is the non-profit umbrella organization that operates the largest public workforce system in the country. As the designated administrator of federal workforce development funding for the City of Chicago and Cook County, The Partnership oversees a network of more than 90 community-based organizations, American Job Centers, satellite sites, and sector-driven centers, serving over 140,000 people yearly. The organization also oversees a diverse portfolio of 26 initiatives representing corporate and philanthropic funds topping more than $149 million in non-federal workforce development funding investments. 


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