An Unlikely Partnership Creates a More Connectable Jacksonville

When JU geography professor, Ashley Johnson, PhD, made an open-ended offer for her students to create a map as a service-learning study, she didn't know she would set into motion a citywide campaign.

Johnson’s offer and the students’ efforts were the foundation for Connectable’s Shopability, a citywide campaign to recognize Jacksonville’s inclusive employers and their uniquely able employees. “One of JU’s core values is developing community leaders, so this gives our students an opportunity to do just that” Johnson remarked.

Ten nonprofit job placement agencies united through Connectable gave students the names of 125 employers deserving of recognition. The students created an interactive map so consumers can locate and support the businesses. The map became the prototype for the campaign.

“Every marker on that map is not only an inclusive employer, but represents one or more people with intellectual differences who are at work in our community making an impact,” said Sarah Troup, Connectable director.

Founded by community philanthropist Delores Barr Weaver, Connectable unites individuals and organizations to shine a spotlight on the positive contributions that people with intellectual and developmental differences make in our lives and community, and creates meaningful connections.

“People with Autism, Down syndrome and other intellectual differences have incredible gifts and abilities to share,” said Troup. “Shopability is our chance to support employers who include these uniquely able individuals on their team, whether it is employment, internships, or serving as a job site in partnership with a nonprofit.”

The JU service-learning project culminated with the students presenting their map to Troup and Kelly Suddath, advocate from The Arc Jacksonville.

JU Senior, Kayla McGhee was glad to see how many businesses employ people with intellectual differences because "we all deserve an opportunity to work.” Suddath shared from personal experience, “I want people to focus on my abilities because everyone has something to bring to the table.”

Next steps for the Shopability campaign include building upon the students’ work. Troup is asking for the community's help in putting every IDD-inclusive employer on the map.

Submit your favorite inclusive employer or find a business to support by clicking here, and save the date for Shopability Saturday, March 6, 2021.