SPRINGFIELD — Viability kept employment, inclusion, access, and empowerment for people with disabilities in the forefront despite the pandemic, says Viability’s new president and CEO, Colleen Holmes.
“For people confronting challenges ranging from mobility to mental health, capability stereotypes to substance abuse, isolation to meeting daily basic needs, just saying ‘we’ll get through this together’ rings hollow,” she added. “Viability had to move into hyperdrive to combat the new barriers of social distancing, shutdowns, and fear.”
Holmes brings 30 years of human-service experience to her new role with Viability, which began in November following a nationwide search. A resident of Springfield, she was most recently president and CEO of 18 Degrees and started in the field at Human Resources Unlimited, one of the agencies that formed Viability.
“I was drawn to Viability’s sky-high possibilities and innovative work in equity, access, and inclusion for people with disabilities and those confronting other social-justice challenges,” she said.
Viability is a community-based human-services agency providing employment services, vocational and life-skills training, and other supports to more than 4,000 individuals across five states. Viability partners with more than 600 employers and leverages community resources to overcome barriers with a mission of helping to build a world where individuals with disabilities and other disadvantages can realize their full potential.
In the last six months, Viability placed 180 individuals in jobs and was the vehicle for another 48 individuals to land employment through its consulting-services arm, Corporate Inclusion Solutions (CIS), which works with national employers to demonstrate how inclusion reduces turnover and meaningfully increases diversity.
Two of Viability’s clubhouse programs — Berkshire Pathways and Forum House — which serve individuals with mental illness with a motto of “recovery through work,” achieved renewed three-year accreditations from Clubhouse International. Viability also expanded services by opening Olympus, a new program site advancing life skills and possibilities for individuals with developmental disabilities, and moved its headquarters to Springfield.