Congress has designated March as a time that businesses recognize the talents that people with disabilities contribute to their communities.
As companies such as AMC Theatres, Walgreens and Microsoft can attest, disabled workers can be a great asset. But only about 20% of Americans with a physical or cognitive disability participate in the traditional workforce and of that group 14% are unemployed—-roughly twice the non disabled rate. New research by Walgreens suggests that this group makes for a particularly stable workforce. A study of its distribution centers by the American Society of Safety Engineers found that workers with disabilities had a turnover rate 48% lower that of the nondisabled population with medical costs 67% lower and time-off expenses 73% lower.
At a time when many workers are unreliable, this is a pool of laborers that get the job done.
It is a great challenge for students with disabilities when they leave school and face adult service systems and programs.
For success the students at ages 14-16 need to have a transition IEP to assist them as the emerge into adulthood to work, live and participate in their community.
All need to understand how the transition relates to the “whole life” for all young people.
The types of transitions that lead to whole life require the involvement of the family, the culture, the appetite to grow and a plan with supports. There is no perfect way to a perfect life, but there are ways to get there. Many require more supports than those without a disability.
The true transition outcome should be real work for real pay. The focus for the disabled has to be on capitalizing on their positive attributes rather than their deficits or problems. This places a heavy burden on high school transition programs where much of the heavy lifting occurs. The high school programs need to have a focus on developing vocational capacity and competency. The goal needs to be that before leaving school a student should be employed in real work for real pay. But that is a tall order for most high school programs that must discharged these students by their 22nd birthday.
In summary, this transition to adulthood includes preparing these young people to live and participate in the community, get around the community, develop financial literacy, cultivate friendships, develop self esteem and a sense of personal identity, as well as learn to engage in fun.
When we consider the needs of those with disabilities we need to look and consider the highs and lows in our own lives. At all times we need to reflect on the need for students to have a community life.