By Lisa Morgan

I can’t imagine what my life would be like if I didn’t have a job. In fact, I have had the privilege of holding several different jobs since I was in my teens. Jobs help us develop in so many ways. We learn what we are good at.  We learn to become self-sufficient. We learn how to interact with others, make decisions, and feel like we are contributing.

Unfortunately, that is very rarely the case for people with developmental disabilities. While the desire, interest, motivation, and ability might all be there, the statistics remain abysmal. The latest research indicates that fewer than twenty percent of adults with a developmental disability are employed.

Supported Employment programs like the one offered by LFSVA break down those barriers to employment. By assessing the strengths and interests of the people we serve, we seek out employment opportunities with local employers to develop a job match. We also offer Disabilities Awareness Training for employers so they can learn more about developmental disabilities, including history, terminology, and some disability etiquette. The goal of the training is to dispel any myths people might have, including the idea that there is a huge cost for accommodations when hiring people with disabilities. There are many stories that prove that the opposite is true. Tim Hortons franchisee Mark Wafer hired a young man with Down Syndrome to work at his busy cafe and didn’t know the decision would have such a positive impact on his business and lead to his own advocacy work for hiring individuals with disabilities.

A study conducted by the Institute for Corporate Productivity, or i4cp, a company that analyzes the practices of high-performance organizations, indicated that more than three-quarters of employers surveyed ranked their employees with developmental disabilities as good or very good on work quality, motivation, engagement, integration with co-workers, dependability, and attendance.

This information is not at all surprising to those of us who work in the field of disability services. And we hope to share more success stories as we connect with employers in the Roanoke area, making the goal of employment a reality for the people we serve.