Employment First?

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Regarding the Employment First Mandate, which states, According to state law in Ohio, employment services for people with developmental disabilities shall be directed at community employment and all people with developmental disabilities are presumed capable of community employment.

I am an employer of a small coffee shop in Urbana, Ohio. I am the sibling of three individuals with developmental disabilities, and I currently employ six individuals with developmental disabilities.
First, not all individuals with developmental disabilities are employable. As both an employer and sibling of individuals that are not typically abled, I am rather lenient compared to most employees when it comes to implementing the abilities of these individuals. However, there are many individuals that have a disability that I will never hire. My sister, whom I love dearly, will never have a job with me. No matter what training she is given, she will never be up to the standards I need to run an efficient business. If I, a dominant advocate for these individuals, will not hire, then it should be presumed that other businesses will not take the risk either.

Second, I will not hire these individuals out of pity, nor should any business be swayed to hire an individual with a disability for their life circumstances. Many county SSA’s have hounded me and a couple vocational programs that I work with to simply give an individual a job. It is assumed that because the individual is mandated to have a job that employers will jump on this bandwagon. That is simply not true. I interview every individual, whether typically functioning or not, to see how they will fit into my business.

Third, individuals are expected to get community jobs, where they are expected to build relationships with other abled-bodied individuals. Some individuals are empowered by getting a community job. Others are very hesitant. They feel that it will be similar to their education experiences, where they were always considered at the bottom, and they have no hope that they will ever see promotion. By mandating these individuals to work with typically functioning individuals, they will not have the same opportunity to build relationships. It is as if we are saying, your other disabled peers are not good enough; you won’t get the opportunity to build a relationship with them. It is an external fight to get employers to hire these individuals, but what is the internal value for employees within the workplace?

Fourth, individuals are expected to seek jobs directly after graduation. I would like to amend that these individuals are not expected to go directly into a job, but rather vocational and day habilitation programs. These programs should not all be disregarded, but implemented as a higher education method for transitioning these individuals into the workplace.

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2 thoughts on “Employment First?

  1. Brian M. Saxton

    You’ve got some really interesting things to think about here; I want to spend some time with them and I can’t right now.

    For the moment, let me give you my first reaction. Do you think it is the case that all developmentally disabled adults would benefit from working in an appropriate job in the community? (Leave aside for the moment the question of whether an appropriate job exists in the place where people live).

    • My personal opinion, no, not all, but some. My argument would be that society looks at a job as a status. When you first meet someone, some leading questions are often, “Where did you work?” or “Where did you go to school?” More importantly, what this question in general is, “What have you accomplished?” I think that there are individuals with disabilities that can hold jobs and accomplish a lot within the job. It is something they can be proud to share. But if the individual is just being hired for the sake of being hired, then what is the point? Is there opportunity for growth? If the individual is simply hired to meet a government quota, what has it personally done for that individual’s quality of life? If you think back to high school, you can often remember people for certain characteristics. Some might be known for their accomplishments in sports or academics. Others may be remembered for their character or smile. I feel that it is unfair to consider a job as the optimal classification for quality of life. Yes, if the individual can grow within a job, contend for promotion, and truly exhibit pride within their occupation, then that can be considered a success. But if the individual is monotonously completing the same job, with no room for growth, and none of their peers want to work with the individual, possibly because they have a miserable attitude, or they are inefficient, how can that be check marked as a success, for the business, the workplace, or the individual? Perhaps the individual is wheelchair bound and non verbal, but they have a smile that can brighten a room. That smile might not be measurable, but it is a characteristic that portrays their quality of life. It is also a characteristic that could be wiped away from the individual if they are placed in a discouraging environment. If regulations refuse to recognize those qualities as admirable is similar to the Hitler movement; that people only have purpose if they if they meet the blonde hair and blue eyed standards. We fought to defend the independence and uniqueness of people. But this law is mandating that people rise to the status quo, or lose support, and though discretely, die.

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