by Richard Fitzmaurice — The Arc of Alameda County/President of the Board, The Arc of California
Since 1945, the Federal Government has set aside some period of time dedicated to finding jobs for people with disabilities. The event has evolved over the years. Today it’s called National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). It’s celebrated in October.
The spotlight for this year’s National Disability Employment Awareness Month is on people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and the theme is “#Inclusion Works.” Get more info from the Department of Labor by clicking here.
I used the term “celebrated.” With an 80% unemployment rate in California for people with cognitive disabilities there’s actually not much to celebrate. The number has held fairly steady for years despite their ability, desire, and willingness to work in the community.
After 71 years of devoting at least a week to increasing awareness, you’d think the stat would be better.
For details and the latest thinking on improving the unemployment rate, please check the final report of the Advisory Committee on Increasing Competitive Integrated Employment for People with Disabilities. The committee operates under the Office of Disability Employment Policy which is in the DoL.
In the report, you will see a recommendation to phase out sheltered workshops that pay sub-minimum wages and move to something called competitive integrated employment – in other words, a real job. (This recommendation along with similar comments over the past few years is why The Arc is already refocusing its sheltered workshops and has actually closed the ones in Union City and Hayward.)
Feds Call for an Outreach Program
You will also see a recommendation that Congress allocate money for an outreach program aimed at convincing businesses to hire people with I/DD. The Arc here in the East Bay will be working with the legislative office at The Arc of the US in Washington D.C. to encourage this crucial recommendation be enacted. The business leaders in our area who have led the pack and actually hired our clients tell us that until Arc job developers contacted them, they had no idea people with I/DD had marketable skills or that our clients even wanted a job. An effective ad campaign could help change that perception.
You can see that the demand for real jobs coming from policy makers but it is also interesting to note that it is coming from clients themselves – especially young people with I/DD who are shopping for a support program once they leave high school. I guarantee you they ain’t looking for programs that shuttle them to a special building every day where they interact only with fellow clients and a couple of staff members.
The Arc of Alameda County’s goal is to meet the demand to create “real jobs for real pay” where people with I/DD are working alongside non-disabled coworkers.
Our clients can’t do every job. But when they can do a job they do it better than anyone else.
Almost all Arc clients have a shared dream of one day having a job like their fathers and mothers/brothers and sisters. When they finally get hired, we send a coach to help smooth the way. Once they get the hang of the job, our folks are the best, most dedicated, most enthusiastic workers imaginable.
If you’re a business person needing to fill a job, contact Cecilia at firstname.lastname@example.org and learn how we work with you to find an employee that fits your job to a “T.” There may be some tax incentives, too. Get information here .
If you’d like to support our “Real Jobs 4 Real Pay” project by donating cash, click here.
So let’s raise a cup of cheer to National Disability Employment Awareness Month – may all our job seeking clients find the job of their dreams!