Let me ask you -
Have you ever sat beside a person with an apparent disability? How did that feel? Were you uncomfortable? Did you want to move to another seat? How about a person in a wheelchair? Have you ever wondered whether you should open the door for them? Have you ever avoided a person who is obviously disabled because you really didn’t know how to interact with that person, or you were “afraid” of them? Or you think they are creepy”? All these reactions or thoughts are very common.
Sadly, there are people that stereotype and are prejudice toward people living with disabilities. This comes from a general lack of information and misunderstanding about people with disabilities. To me, attitudes are the real disability.
I am not a teenager, but I was once. I craved friendship; I wanted to be invited to all the parties, be in all the plays, talk on the phone, cruise around, go to the games, go to movies, go out to eat, just hang out… anything to be part of the group! Let me tell you, people with disabilities want the same thing! When I got older, I wanted a job, not only to make money, but to be a part of my community, to have a feeling of self-worth or just have something to do!
People with disabilities feel the same way! A lot of them cannot do these things without help. Just think about some of your accomplishments. How about that class that you just were struggling with, but, thanks to the wonderful teacher you had, you passed that class? Could you have done this without that help? How about when you wanted to start driving? Think of all the support and help you had to learn to do that so you could get your license and drive! Or how about the coach that coached and coached you until you could be a successful part of that team. And the boss that trained you and molded you into a successful career.
What I am saying is, we all need a little help occasionally. That is what we in the Community Employment department do.
We provide several services funded through Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation Services (voc rehab) to assist people with disabilities to get a job. We do Discovery to allow us to get to know the person that has never had a job. We get to know the “hidden skills” they may have or interests or just everyday life for them.
We may then move on to Career Exploration. This service allows us to look up local jobs that may interest that person and research the job together. We look at online videos to see what the job is like and then discuss the good and bad of that job. We also volunteer in the community to see how an individual with disabilities responds to completing a job. We may do some job shadows, allowing the job candidate to see firsthand how the job is done.
We also do a thing called Workplace Readiness Assessment. This is where a job candidate works doing the job at the business and is paid through voc rehab. A job coach is with them the entire time. It gives the individual and the employer a chance to see how this job is fit for them. We call it “the try it before you buy it service.”
Once a job is obtained, there is job coaching. This could be full time when the person is working or just dropping in to see how they are getting along. It varies depending on the individual’s needs. The goal is to get a person in a job that fits them, and for them to be independent doing that job. We take great care to find a job that fits that person. Let’s face it, we have all had a job we were not fit for. How successful were you at that??
Persons with disabilities are very dependable employees. They boost the morale of all company employees. They are proud of their job and want to work. For the employer, we are always there to helping train and offer additional support.
I am here to tell you there is not a better feeling when you’re working with a person with a disability and you have helped them achieve something that is very important to them. It could be making a bed, fixing a meal, assembling something, getting a job, or making new friends. Whatever it may be, you have made a huge difference in a person’s life! Oddly enough I have come to realize over my 28 years in this field that they have made a HUGE difference in my life!
I ask Employers or anyone reading this to check out what we can do to get you good employees. My name is Julie McQueen; I am the Team Leader for Community Employment at Nishna Productions. You can reach me at 712-246-1242 extension 312.
I leave you with one last thing - WE CAN ALL MAKE A DIFFERENCE!!