Community employment for people with disabilities is hitting a homerun with all of the new initiatives across Ohio. The State of Ohio’s Department of Developmental Disabilities (DODD) is pushing forward with support from Governor Dewine, with opportunities to provide ease of access to employment opportunities that are not the traditional “workshop settings.”
In the past, people who displayed any type of delay in physical or mental ability would often have limited expectations during their school years, and then be placed immediately into “workshops or day-habs” to sit each day out doing crafts, socializing and, if paid, making only pennies on the dollar for factory style work.
People now are receiving training, internships and job coaching as young as 14 years old in order to advance their success rate of being employed within a community job. The local school districts as well as the county boards of developmental disabilities have partnered to start teaching resume and job application writing, job coaching during internships and employment, as well as dress code, etiquette in the workplace and cooperative skills with co-workers. Having the preliminary supports in place, prepare many of the students now graduating high school for community employment at competitive wages and benefits.
Last school year, 19 successful graduates from a local high school received job training and an opportunity to gain employment. Many reported back that they had gone to interviews on their own, showing the self confidence gained from the supports they had during high school to seek out their own employment. Knowing they could encounter employers who are apprehensive of hiring a person with a challenge, they forged the path anyway. Many found the success of paid employment and all the other important benefits, such as increased self- esteem, opportunities to learn more, broader social networks and a more positive outlook on life.
For employers, getting to know a person and their ability is the best way to engage in a successful future with the employee. Employers are finding that unique skill sets are among those who have noticeable disabilities, but those skill sets outweigh the challenges, giving way to a productive employee-employer relationship. People are often surprised to hear that the local grocery store, the best restaurants, the farmer down the road or the factory with high-tech machinery are all now employing those who have developmental disabilities.
Enhancing the quality of life and supporting the workforce with well-trained and supported employees is the goal that is becoming more available to our communities. So, the next time you are in a local business who hires people with disabilities, thank them for giving hope to those who are clearly capable.
October is set aside as the National Employment Disability Awareness month. Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) is a national campaign that raises awareness about disability employment issues and celebrates the many and varied contributions of America’s workers with disabilities.
Stacy Hazelton, is a public relations specialist for the Highland County Board of DD.