Studies make it clear that the employment rate of individuals with intellectual disability (ID) lags significantly behind that of the general adult population. According to a report in Disability and Employment, a recent survey conducted by Gallup and the University of Massachusetts Boston showed that only 44% of adults with ID aged 21-64 are in the labor force, while 83% of working-age adults without disabilities are in the labor force. Further, the survey also shows that up to 21% of working age adults with ID are unemployed. The federal government is spending billions of dollars on schemes to help train and provide jobs to those with disabilities. Many non-profit organizations such as The Arc of Madison County and projects like ‘Project Search’ are also helping students and adults with special needs.
‘The Arc of Madison County’, a non-profit organization, is engaged in employing and training individuals with disabilities in the tasks of recycling and shredding documents. They have expanded the set up to a document management business that combines recycling, on-site storage and document scanning services. The aim of the program is to help those with disabilities gain skills to move into community jobs and to make them as independent as possible.
Arc started the project with a grant of $200,000 from the Department of Rehabilitation. The business provides jobs according to the level of disability of each person. Those who are unable to read or write are given document scanning jobs.
Project SEARCH, which originated at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, has expanded to sites across the United States and the United Kingdom. This program that puts young adults with developmental disabilities in contact with business and education establishments that provide training and employment opportunities in a real world setting. Students are trained in office services such as management of coffee stations, conference rooms and kitchens and clerical support services such as filing, data entry and scanning, and data base maintenance.
Both these projects aims at educating employers about the potential of the underutilized workforce while meeting their needs for trained professionals.