Posted: 12:05 a.m. Friday, March 21, 2014


People with disabilities want to work

By Christina Hurr

Guest Columnist

Work is good for us. Even on days when we have complaints about our job, we know that work provides the income we need and is good for our sense of independence and our need to be productive and connected to others.

Since March is Developmental Disability Awareness month, I would like to provide some insight about people with developmental disabilities and their need and abilities for employment. A person with a developmental disability is someone who, during their formative years (birth- age 22) experience a condition(s) that impacts their ability to learn, socialize, get around and/or do daily activities.

One in six people have a developmental disability. Most people can overcome the effects of their disability with assistance, support, technology and/or adaptations. Most importantly, people with developmental disabilities have the same needs and desires as the rest of us — they want to be independent, participate in social activities, learn, recreate and earn a living. Just like the rest of us, they need the opportunity and proper support to get started.

In Ohio, as nationally, there is an emphasis to provide people with disabilities opportunities to be employed. Traditionally, people with significant disabilities were generally expected to go to some type of sheltered workshop to “get ready” for community employment. The problem is that they became isolated and never left the sheltered employment site; they also couldn’t earn enough income to be independent.

Currently, many high school graduates with developmental disabilities do not find employment and many attend non-work centers during the day for something to do.

In 2012, Governor Kasich signed an Employment First Initiative which says that people with developmental disabilities should be given the opportunity and support to find employment in the community before day programs or sheltered work is considered. According to the research for this initiative, there are 30,000 adults with developmental disabilities in Ohio who are not working; 50 percent of these want a job in the community, but only 11 percent have one.

This is where we, the community, come in. First, we need to recognize that people with developmental disabilities are able to work and should be given the opportunity. Many employers who have an employee with a developmental disability state emphatically that the person is hardworking, reliable and one of their best employees.

Second, we need to provide the proper support that some people need to find employment. The best strategy is to get to know the person’s strengths and abilities, help them determine their job options and interests, and then give them additional support to seek and learn the job. The person then keeps their job by working hard and having someone to call or check in with if there is a work-related problem to solve.

It is important to realize that the reason more people with developmental disabilities are not employed is due to the lack of opportunity and support to get a job, not due to their lack of abilities.

Last, if you are an employer and have a need for reliable employees, please contact local agencies and organizations to find people ready and willing to work that can fill that job. To get connected with workers, consider contacting your local county board of developmental disabilities, your local office of the Bureau of Vocational Rehabilitation, or Goodwill Easter Seals Miami Valley. These are resources that can help you find employees and can also help support the on-the job training and follow-up that the person may need.

This month, remember that people with developmental disabilities want to participate in social activities, learn, recreate and earn a living. Just like the rest of us, they want to achieve independence.

Christina Hurr is the project manager for Program Services, Goodwill Easter Seals Miami Valley.


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