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Employment for People With Disabilities Doesn't Have to Be Complicated

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It’s no secret that some of the most successful individuals in our world are persons who despite the challenges, the doubts and naysayers, pursued their interests above all else. And those interests have yielded great personal satisfaction, and at times, financial independence. Is this unique experience only reserved for the privileged, the elite, incredibly educated or extraordinarily abled? Not at all.

Go back in time to days of the milk man, the baker, the butcher, when entrepreneurship was not a catchphrase but simply a way of life. Now fast forward to today and our new entrepreneurs include everyone from Uber drivers, artists and musicians that sell their talents online, to the local hotdog stand, urban farmers, personalities that make money simply by posting videos on YouTube and the consultant that sells his/her talents via Fiverr (one of many websites focused on selling unique services).

Although many companies today have finally seen, acknowledged and recognized the value in hiring individuals with #UniqueDifferences, this still only accounts for a fraction of the jobs available to supply the overwhelming amount of work needed. In a recent conversation with our friend Stephen Mark Shore we discussed how we cannot forget there is also a very large population of individuals with disabilities like our son who is non-verbal, epileptic and more — people who at this moment do not fit the profile of workers being sought after by companies like Microsoft, Google, HP Careers, SAP and many others. Does this mean they cannot work? Or that they deserve work that comes with a less dignified experience or job title? Absolutely not!

With the rapidly growing number of “micro-entrepreneurs” and an increase in self-employment in general (small business owners), it has been quite apparent to us that creating a unique job to fit someone with developmental disabilities has never been so easy. Not only does the internet allow anyone to sell almost anything from anywhere and to anyone in the world, but our society, as well as its consumers seems to lean more and more toward products and services that have a story attached, and/or are accessible online.

Another conversation we had with a young lady (the daughter of our good friend Vicki Jean), who has autism, is non-verbal, also has epilepsy and types to communicate, shed an important light on this topic of employment. She is now working her way to becoming a published author, and when asked about her journey of #SelfEmployment, her response was simple, yet powerful. She replied, “Everyone needs to work.” We have seen an overwhelming amount of evidence that when someone is engaged in a work experience they truly enjoy, not only do behaviors change, but even the nature of accommodations and supports they need to carry out tasks slightly or altogether dissipate. For example, when our son is doing something he loves, he never asks for our help. It is one of the few times when he is empowered with total independence and control of his own life.

For us, the story here is that employment need not be complicated, overly elaborate and with a million protocols, processes and accommodations in place. Employment can simply be someone doing what they love every day for the rest of their lives, and making a modest income doing just that. Sounds like a dream job? No. It sounds like meaningful employment!

Getty image by Karel Noppe.

Originally published: February 26, 2018
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