October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month and an opportunity to shed light on diversity, equity, and inclusion, issues that are top of mind for many employers today.
While the recognition of disability and more employment opportunities should not be limited to a single month, it is a chance to recognize the contributions of workers with disabilities and the supportive, inclusive employment policies and programs that enable them to thrive.
Employment and Individuals with I/DD: How ILA Helps
Individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) are often marginalized, and may find it challenging to find gainful employment. Many face discrimination, are often lower paid, and are at higher risk of losing their jobs.
However, every individual is unique. Some may be able to work and manage their routines independently, while others may need more accommodation and support.
ILA’s habilitation programs offer a broad range of services that can be adapted to individual needs, helping Individuals gain more independence, participate in group activities, and prepare for possible employment.
Community and Day Habilitation
In past generations, sheltered employment was one of the only work options for individuals with I/DD. It was a controlled environment without integration, usually focused on repetitive work, such as assembling products in a factory.
Today’s programs have come a long way. At ILA, the Day Hab Program emphasizes group activities in the community and vocational opportunities, such as volunteering at Citymeals on Wheels, local flower shops, bakeries, and soup kitchens. These pre-vocational experiences are highly motivating, providing a sense of inclusion for Individuals and helping them to develop essential skills and work habits that support them in everyday life.
While personal interests, strengths, and aptitudes are always nurtured, important life skills are also developed, such as communication, time management, socialization, money management, and self-sufficiency. Sometimes the greatest value can be derived from learning how to navigate daily life and relationships.
For the past several years, Sully, an Individual in our Day Hab Program, has worked at a local florist and has “blossomed” into one of their most valued employees. He knows the tasks he needs to perform, and always completes them with a smile. The shop owner describes Sully as “conscientious and caring” and recognizes the difference ILA’s support has made in his life.
Sully’s story is just one example of how people with disabilities can thrive given the right opportunities.
Tips for Employers
We all want to feel a part of something—needed, valued, and helping to contribute to a greater goal. These are the things that motivate us all, and people with I/DD are no different. They are employed at grocery stores, offices, factories, hospitals, and restaurants. Many perform highly detailed tasks with palpable dedication and joy, both for the work and their coworkers.
For employers who want to make a difference and are curious about what they can do to celebrate National Disability Employment Awareness Month, here are a few helpful tips:
- Talk about it—to your employees, customers, and other business owners. Awareness is the goal!
- Review your company policies to ensure they are inclusive and equitable to those with disabilities.
- Include individuals with disabilities in your hiring strategy.
To quote ILA Area Coordinator (and former Day Hab Services Coordinator/Supervisor) Nicole Sawyers, “Individuals are going to develop skills that bring value and purpose to their lives. If you provide Individuals with the supports and attention they need to thrive, the sky’s the limit. The possibilities are endless.”
To learn more about ILA’s programs and to find out how to get involved, connect with us today.