When we think about what each of us want in life, we find more similarities than we do differences. Just because some people have disabilities, does not mean they have different desires or dreams compared to everyone else. With this understanding, the question must be asked, “What can we do to help?”
The barrier to employment for individuals with disabilities is created by employers, but it is not done on purpose. This barrier is based on a lack of knowledge or life experience by those making hiring decisions. It is the same reason we often go to the same restaurants or order the same thing, we know exactly what to expect and we’re satisfied with it. We do what’s known and familiar.
When we look to the benefits to hiring individuals with disabilities, we must remember that we are not the first ones to ever do this. Just as we do for other challenges in life, we must leverage information from others who have been down this road before. Whether an intellectual or developmental disability, employers can find answers to questions and strategies for accommodations from those who serve these populations, like Vocational Rehabilitation offices in each state and through agencies like The STAR Center.
Finally, when employers are asked about the top qualities they look for in potential employees, a few always seem to rise to the top of the list. These are work ethic, flexibility, and persistence. For someone living with a disability, these qualities are necessary to simply perform the tasks necessary to live life. They have proven their work ethic, dealt with change by remaining flexible, and persisted to achieve success.
We must lean into that which makes us uncomfortable to get a glimpse of how different is perfect. The impact of a job on an individual’s life is undeniable. The impact of that individual with a disability on the coworkers around them is palpable. The impact on a community surrounding them is life giving.
Will you add your name to the list? Do you or someone you know need more information about how to take the first step?