Disabled people want, need to work

Published 12:10 am Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Part one of two

A great deal of research has been conducted, laws have been written and other issues have been raised in recent years regarding equal employment opportunity in terms of various minority groups.

However, this has mainly been regarding race and gender inequality with the work force. People with serious intellectual and other developmental disabilities remain a significant, but largely unrecognized, minority group, which should be represented in the work force.

Two out of three people with disabilities want to work, but have not been able to secure jobs because of accessibility and attitudinal barriers. The major barrier for people with disabilities, regardless of whether it is employment or other areas, are impediments created by the attitudes of people. Employers need to overcome attitudinal barriers so as to include people with disabilities when seeking potential employees. These perceptions are basically developed by individuals when they go only by what they see.

Patricia Yeager in her article “To work or not — the choice is yours” shares the following example. One day, a man who had been a quadriplegic for 30-plus years went to the doctor. He took off his clothing for an examination. When the surgical resident, who had never met the man, came in, he did not see the man’s expensive clothing. All he noticed was the power wheelchair. The doctor started a conversation by asking, “So, do you work or are you just disabled?”

The doctor did not know he was talking to the director of a state agency — a person who had worked all his life. He saw the disability and lowered his expectations about the man’s ability to work. His personal bias or perceptions were colored by the myth that people with disabilities can’t work; that they are unable to provide for themselves or contribute to the community.

The main barrier to employment for people with disabilities is attitude and lack of awareness of their abilities. There are many misconceptions about differently abled people. These misconceptions must be addressed in order to successfully integrate this minority into the staffing profile. Employers who hire individuals with disabilities quickly learn they are typically model employees — have excellent attendance records, are punctual and display a professional behavior when working.

People with disabilities add value to the workplace every day. The real benefit to the employee is realized in terms of self-esteem, value to the community, increased independence and value to their employers are beyond measure.  People deserve choices in everything from where to spend their money, to where they live, to where they work.

Beaufort County Developmental Center, located in Washington, believes that people with disabilities have a right to live and work in their home community. The agency is dedicated to providing them with the opportunity they need to make this possible. Beaufort County Developmental Center’s mission is to empower people with developmental challenges through service alternatives that promote: self-advocacy, self-reliance, self-direction, self-sufficiency and self-actualization.

One of the ways we accomplish our mission is through several employment programs. A person-centered plan is used to identify goals, create objectives and identify supports a person needs to achieve and maintain employment. BCDC’s staff works with each individual’s strengths and provides them an opportunity to learn employable skills through meaningful work. BCDC also works cooperatively with the local office of the North Carolina Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services in seeking referrals and placements for individuals.

For more information about BCDC and its services, call 252-946-0151.