An award-winning new documentary explores the challenges people with disabilities face in the work force, and the growing movement to get companies to employ them. NY1's Cheryl Wills filed the following report.
The documentary "A Whole Lott More," which won the audience award at the Hot Docs Film Festival, is a rare look inside a factory in Toledo, Ohio called Lott Industries. It's unique because since 1956, it primarily employs people with disabilities.
At its peak, more than 1,000 disabled workers were employed at Lott Industries, but due to the economic downturn, it's struggling to make ends meet.
Activist Loreen Arbus is the film's executive producer.
"The main purpose of the documentary is not so much to be about the Lott Factory, but to be about inclusiveness, to show that people with disabilities work, can work, need work, love to work," Arbus said.
Crystal Rivera has successfully worked as a secretary for United Cerebral Palsy of New York City for a year now. She calls it the opportunity of a lifetime.
"A person in my position has never thought that I can reach this far," she said.
Such opportunities are few and far between for many. According to a census bureau report in March of 2013, individuals with disabilities account for only six percent of the civilian labor force.
David Dottin is a seasonal worker at Plants Essentials.
"I look at it as, I will grow and I will do better, that I can able to teach others," he said.
United Cerebral Palsy of New York City has a supportive employment program, but they said that it's tough to get businesses to sign up.
"We still find a lot of resistance, but what we're finding now and what myself and my staff are working on and the agency as a whole is working on is more community partnerships," said Anne Ross, the director of United Cerebral Palsy of New York City.
For Loreen Arbus, the documentary is personal. Her parents, Isabelle and Leonard H. Goldenson, co-founded United Cerebral Palsy shortly after her younger sister was diagnosed with the illness.
Arbus said that it's time that companies take advantage of this untapped labor force.
"If you're in a position to hire, don't ignore - it's the largest minority in the world - don't ignore people with disabilities," she said.