How did you get your current job? Was it through a friend, a community connection, a teacher, a mentor? We know that 64 percent of people find their jobs through networking. I know that I found my current job through a friend who had the job. She was moving away and knew that I was looking for another job because I was tiring of a 40 mile commute. (By the way, my previous position was also found through a connection a friend made for me.) People with disabilities have unique gifts that our community needs. However, finding the right fit between their gifts and what employers need to have done can be a challenge. This challenge is made greater because people with disabilities have limited networking opportunities for prospective employers to get to know their abilities. When people with disabilities spend most of their time in special education or services their opportunities to network in the community may be limited. Some people with disabilities may also be isolated from the community connections because of their living arrangements.
At the Arcadia Institute we are working with people with disabilities to find meaningful activities, employment and housing that are not segregated from the community at large. We are intentionally working to provide opportunities for people with disabilities to discover their interests and gifts in the community. Through these activities they are growing their community networks. At our recent Building a Community of Belonging Forum, 12 people with disabilities broadened their connections in the community. A couple of them now have more volunteer options. One person wants to help a woman we work with to get an assistant dog that might increase her ability to work. Another person is thinking about how to have another woman we work with have an internship in his program.
So far we have had one success in our organic approach. My husband mentioned to his co-worker that The Arcadia Institute was looking for places people with disabilities to work. That co-worker said that they had a part time job that might be an option. We are working with a young man who was a good fit for the job. My husband’s company is very much like a family and so far has embraced this young man. We check in, but he never he needs little support from us because the company supports him.
If you are employed in a paying job think about how you found it. And while you are thinking about that might you know of a unique job for a person with unique gifts?