TULSA, Okla. – The crowd cheered when Joy Ride Taxi owner Patrick Cuningkin accepted his Community Employer Award for hiring multiple jobseekers who are blind.
Staff from Visual Services, a division of the Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services, presented the award to Cuningkin at the grand opening of their new assistive technology lab in Tulsa.
Cuningkin, from Collinsville, has already hired three VS clients as dispatchers for his Tulsa-based taxi business. He now plans to double the number to six employees when his successful business expands into Broken Arrow and Owasso this summer. Some will be dispatchers. At least one will be an administrative worker.
“It’s been a great pleasure for me being able to work with those that are blind, and I’m amazed at what they are able to do,” Cuningkin explained. “It just reminds me that you can’t underestimate someone especially when they have drive, and they want to make something happen.”
Many VS clients rely on Cuningkin for transportation to the VS offices for employment, technology training and other assistance. He originally found out about the VS employment program when dropping them off.
Hoping to find new customers, he talked with Field Services Coordinator Fatos Floyd, who manages the offices. Floyd encouraged him to publicize the Visual Services program and armed him with contact information in large print for any of his interested riders.
“Our dream for the last three years is to have a place in Tulsa that serves all blind individuals’ every need in one place, “Floyd said. ““One-stop services are important here because one of biggest barriers for blind people is transportation,” noting that transportation needs make the connection with Joy Ride Taxi even more important.
Cuningkin, a father of five, named his business after youngest daughter, Kaliya Joy, who was born with a heart defect. Following several surgeries, she is doing much better.
“One of things we’re going to do as we grow the company is to provide more information as a service to the community about the different groups we’re working with such as, Visual Services and the American Heart Association,” Cuningkin said.
State Representative Regina Goodwin (House District 73 – Tulsa), Jonathan Townsend from the City of Tulsa mayor’s office and Noel Tyler, DRS director, were present for the award ceremony and tours of the new assistive technology lab conducted by a dozen VS clients.
“I love that Patrick is engaged and cares enough to hire a number of Visual Services clients with vision impairments,” Representative Goodwin said. “We’ve got to be creative in matching people with disabilities with good jobs, and this partnership between Joy Ride Taxi and DRS Visual Services is exactly the kind of thing we need to be doing together.”
In 2016, Visual Services provided career planning and employment services to 1,830 jobseekers. Among those clients, 246 found employment in careers of their choice. They earned an average of $22,602 per year and paid an average of $3,390 in taxes.
For more information, contact the Visual Services offices in Tulsa at 918-551-4900 or call the statewide hotline at 800-487-4042 to be transferred to the nearest office.