Everyone Working Side by Side

Aug 21, 2013 2:35 PM ET

Inclusive employment is more than just the title of this blog. It’s a movement that is decades in the making. Inclusive employment means having a workforce that includes all members of the community with equal pay and equal opportunity. After decades of being segregated in sheltered workshops and earning below minimum wage, individuals with disabilities and their families are calling for inclusive employment. With a growing call to move people out of the sheltered workshops and into competitive employment, the questions of why and how come up frequently.

Why should people want to leave their homes, workshops, and training centers—places that some people have been in for several years? Greater opportunity and a chance to be independent are just two answers. Everyone wants to grow and encounter new opportunities. We all want to take the skills we have and apply them to improve our lives and the lives of others. We also want to learn new skills and improve our abilities. We want to go beyond our training and do what we know we can do. Inclusive employment allows for the growth of the individual. Individuals are given the chance to showcase skills side by side with other people in the community and earn income that can lead to a more independent life. It also widens people’s social circles, giving them something in common with other employees and making them equal members of a business where they work beside coworkers from all walks of life.

Inclusive employment can be achieved in many ways. With support from family, friends, schools, human service agencies, and businesses, people with disabilities can take the steps to find successful, inclusive employment. Using ideas like customized employment, business engagement, and social capital, people can start entering the workforce in ways they may never have been able to do before. Like Ron at United Water (story on pg 3), someone with a disability can not only find work in the community but thrive in it, with support and an open-minded business.

There are many challenges to all this and many myths that we have to overcome. There are questions about social security, safety, transportation, education, support, and many more. People may doubt that it is possible or even reasonable for people with disabilities to have equal standing in the workforce. With the belief that employment enhances the human spirit and leads to an overall better life, this blog was developed to reach out to job seekers, employers, families, the human services field, and the community on a whole to help answer those questions and spark the conversation on how to make inclusive employment happen. Our goal is to increase the opportunities for individuals with disabilities to work side by side with the rest of the community. This is a challenge but one that can be met.