Working Toward a Tipping Point: Competitive Employment for People with Disabilities

The blog this week was written by Dr. Allison Hammond, Executive Director of The Arcadia Institute. On a very positive note, through The Arcadia Institute Community Brokering and other programs such as Project Search, it feels like there is a growing movement toward a tipping point in Kalamazoo around employment of people with disabilities. The more that people with disabilities are successfully employed the more stigmas and barriers to competitive employment for people with disabilities are being questioned.

Since 2012, The Arcadia Institute through Community Brokering has been working towards supporting people with disabilities to find meaningful Activity, independent living arrangements and competitive employment. We have found that the community is quite open to people with disabilities participating in recreation, leisure, volunteer and other activities that are meaningful. In general, we can find independent living solutions that allow people to live in situations more of their choosing. Then we come to competitive employment which is defined as working at least part time at least minimum wage. We have had some success in this arena.

However, as we encounter business owners and employers, we still find that there are stigmas for people with disabilities. We find that people will say, "Can't those people go work at such and such program?" "Aren't there places for people like that?" "We don't have time to make accommodations to support people with disabilities."

We do want to say that these comments are not in anyway mean spirited or meant to down play their concern that people with disabilities deserve to have full lives in the community, including employment. It is simply that we as a society perpetuate these notions that people with disabilities are "other" and need to work at special places when we create sheltered workshops and groups of people with disabilities working under the supervision of a specialist.

Please consider this article about Sheltered Workshop Reform http://www.paraquad.org/blog/lets-reform-sheltered-workshop-employment/

If you have any questions or want more information about The Arcadia Institute please contact Allison Hammond at 269-217-2205 or ahammond@thearcadiainstitute.org