This Labor Day, as we celebrate the contributions that workers have made to this country since its founding, take a moment to think about employment opportunities for individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities (I/DD).
The Arc of Massachusetts advocates for community-based supports and services for living, learning, recreating, and working. We strongly believe that people with I/DD should have the right to work in the community and we encourage supports to help them in their employment. People with disabilities need to be supported to make informed choices about their work and careers and have the resources to seek, obtain, and be successful in inclusive community employment.
People with disabilities want to contribute, to make a difference in the workplace, to earn a paycheck. But historically, their employment opportunities were limited at best, and often they were hidden away in sheltered workshops or relegated to back rooms, despite ample evidence that working alongside people who do not have disabilities enhances meaningfulness and wellbeing for all.
Take Ted Wong, for example, a proud employee of Walmart in Walpole for the past six years. Though some believed he would never be able to be active in the community, coaching and support from a chapter of The Arc helped Ted overcome challenges presented by Down syndrome. He has earned a reputation for working hard, being dependable, and unwavering enthusiasm. Every time he walks through the front door and puts on his uniform, he sets an example of what people with disabilities can accomplish if given the chance. As much as he learns from his work and responsibilities, he educates shoppers and coworkers tenfold. He is a success story.
And there can be many more success stories like Ted’s, with the proper supports and opportunities.
Working in the community can often be a pivotal step toward greater inclusion. Working together allows people with and without disabilities to see that they have far more in common than they may have thought. To help these relationships develop, The Arc of Massachusetts published “Building Friendships at Work Toolkit” earlier this year. The toolkit helps organizations that provide employment supports facilitate relationships between employees with disabilities and co-workers without.
We need you to help us promote inclusion in the workplace and the community. The progress we achieved over the past 61 years could only have happened because dedicated individuals like you made it possible. Please consider a gift to The Arc’s annual fund.
So, this Labor Day, as you are celebrating those who built this country, please take a moment to think about Ted and how people with intellectual or developmental disabilities can contribute to building the future and make a gift to The Arc of Massachusetts.