OGDEN -- Mike Taylor would like people to understand a few things that are crystal clear to him:
People with disabilities need to know they can find employment if they work hard and get really good at a skill that interests them.
And employers need to know that disabled people make great employees because they love their job, they are rarely late or unfocused, and they know the value of a job, so they are loyal.
"There's no reason you can't do almost any job," Taylor said Thursday to a group of high school students with learning disabilities.
"Find out what you like and pursue it. If you do well, chances are, someone will pay you to do it, and it will be your contribution to life."
Taylor is chairman of UBET, the Utah Business Employers Team of the Ogden/Weber Chamber of Commerce.
He also works at the Ogden-Weber Applied Technology College as a Student Success Center specialist, a position sponsored by AmeriCorps VISTA.
Taylor and students from Weber and Fremont high schools met at the Standard-Examiner and listened to representatives from the newspaper, Hill Air Force Base, OWATC and Utah state government.
The students also toured the paper and got to ask questions about careers in printing, accounting, marketing and the news media.
Taylor, a retired "computer geek," has personal experience with a disability. He gets around using a cane and a motorized wheelchair.
"My 'person-ness' is not disabled because of this chair," he told students. "The things wrong with my body do not lessen me as a person."
Local businesses that have committed to being more aware of the needs of the disabled, as customers and employees, include the Standard-Examiner, Hill Air Force Base, Wal-Mart, the Internal Revenue Service and Mount Ogden Cafe.
"It breaks my heart to hear somebody (with a disability) tell me they can't," Taylor said. "It's usually because someone else told them they can't, and that was wrong."
Taylor said more niche markets exist today than ever before, and many jobs can be done from home.
And Taylor wants employers to consider the hiring opportunities they are missing.
"Give us a chance to earn what we deserve, and we will do the job," he said.
Taylor said many employers believe, wrongly, that it is expensive to make accommodations for a disabled employee.
"The average cost is less than $500 a year, and there's a $5,000 tax incentive for hiring the disabled, so usually it doesn't cost the employer anything," he said.
"So rather than thinking of themselves as a liability, people with disabilities should think of themselves as being an asset to their companies.
"Disabled people and potential employers need to change their mindsets."