At 6:00 a.m. the alarm goes off. Hoping to put off the inevitable, you reach over and push the snooze button. However, you realize you’re not going back to sleep because your mind is quickly consumed by all of the reasons you don’t want to go to work.
You stare at the ceiling and think about how much you dislike your job. The commute, your coworkers and the tasks that lay ahead of you combine to create an impending sense of dread. After another minute or two, you realize there is no point in putting it off. You might as well get up and face another pointless day.
Sadly, that is the way some people start each morning. For them, having a job is a source of continuing unhappiness. Because they can’t seem to find work that is fulfilling, many of them change jobs frequently, constantly searching for something better. Others are locked into long-term careers leaving them feeling trapped with no hope of escaping their particular situation. In either case, work becomes nothing more than drudgery.
Because they only focus on the negative, they fail to appreciate that there are countless individuals who desperately want exactly what they have. These are people who would give anything to face the challenges of a job that others consider to be a burden.
Unfortunately, too many men and women with developmental disabilities will never be given the opportunity to work. For them, having a job is a dream that always seems to be just out of reach.
These are people who are judged solely by their appearance, the way they move, or the way they speak. Perhaps they use a walker or wear leg braces. Maybe they have vision or hearing issues. Possibly they cannot stand for long periods. These are challenges they live with every day of their lives - but for potential employers, each one is used as a convenient excuse to turn them away without even giving them a chance.
To face rejection because of something you have absolutely no control over is unfair and unjust. It is not right that a person should have to struggle to overcome the misconceptions of others.
Regrettably, a significant percentage of the business community is still reluctant to institute changes or make necessary accommodations to assist someone so they can be employed. They’re unwilling to offer the support, guidance or additional training that a particular individual might need. They cannot see past the challenges and appreciate the humanity of the person.
But they should never lose sight of the fact that a disability can occur at any point in life. In an instant, they could be involved in an accident or experience a medical crisis that would leave them with a permanent intellectual or physical challenge.
From that moment on, their employment opportunities would be influenced by the way others saw their disability. There would be a tendency to define them by what was viewed as their “perceived” limitations. They would no longer be seen as a complete person. In other people’s eyes they would now be “different”, and for that reason, they would be considered unemployable.
That is the barrier to the job market faced by hundreds of thousands of men and women with developmental disabilities, and it is where our organization enters the picture.
The Meadows Center for Opportunity is a nonprofit whose prime objective is to offer employment to the very people that others refuse to consider hiring. We believe that having a disability should not be used as a reason to automatically exclude a person from the workforce.
For thirty-seven years it has been our mission to hire adults with intellectual and physical challenges. Because so many of these individuals have been forced to wait for the chance to have a job, when the opportunity finally arrives, they commit themselves to do the best they possibly can. Their work ethic is admirable. Eager to learn and willing to attempt new tasks, each person takes great pride in their accomplishments as they consistently strive to reach their potential.
Throughout the years, the individuals we’ve hired have proven over and over again to be outstanding employees in every way - which makes it difficult to understand why so many businesses remain reluctant to utilize this amazing resource.
These adults want to work - and, more importantly, they deserve to work.
So, the next time the alarm goes off, please remember that you are blessed to be employed. And if, for some reason, your current job does not pan out, rest assured that you will always have the opportunity to find other work.
But, unfortunately, that is not true for people with intellectual challenges.
Until society changes its attitude, there will continue to be a crucial need for organizations like the Meadows to provide meaningful jobs to individuals who have been unfairly left behind.
That is why we feel privileged each time we are able to hire a man or woman with a developmental disability and make that person’s dream of employment come true.
Those five letters have been our guide for the past thirty-seven years, and they will remain our objective going forward. Because in the same way that trust is critical in personal relationships, it is also crucial in business relationships.
The true importance of trust can be measured by the fact that it is not freely given. It has to be earned every day. In our case, it’s the result of being honest, reliable, and dependable. In every situation, we consistently do our best to meet or exceed all expectations.
Of course, in any business relationship, it takes time to establish a bond of mutual respect. On the other hand, a breach of trust can happen in an instant. That is why we remain ever vigilant in our efforts to deserve the trust that is placed in us.
As you may know, our nonprofit employs men and women with developmental disabilities. Hiring these individuals is why our organization was created. It has always been and will continue to be our mission to provide meaningful employment for people who deserve the opportunity to reach their potential in life.
But as we carry out that mission, it is necessary for us to generate revenue. Because we receive a minimum of financial support from the state and federal government, it is imperative that we provide a service that companies, organizations, and individuals need and value.
In our case, data destruction is the core of our business. Currently, more than 3000 customers statewide depend on the Meadows to destroy their sensitive material. Our secure process guarantees that all data is safe-guarded from receipt to destruction. The shredded paper is then recycled making the entire process eco-friendly.
However, being successful in this particular area of commerce is contingent on having the trust of those we do business with. Our ability to maintain such a large and diverse customer base is the direct result of the level of security we provide. The Meadows offers protection that is vital when dealing with confidential material. Government offices, medical facilities, commercial banks, educational institutions and many types of organizations choose to utilize our services.
Obviously, there is competition in this market. But, ultimately, our customers continue to use us for their shredding needs because they know that protecting their sensitive information is always our number one priority.
But our commitment to being trustworthy is not exclusive to the way we do business. That same level of trust exists with the men and women we employ. Beyond the intellectual, physical, and emotional challenges they live with, many have additional complex health issues that require constant monitoring to ensure their personal safety and well-being at all times. That is a level of trust that requires us to accept even greater responsibility.
For many of our employees, this is the first job they’ve ever had - which means it’s a new experience for their families as well. Although it is not easy for them to let go, each weekday, parents, siblings, and guardians place tremendous trust in us to care for their loved ones.
That is why, for the benefit of our customers and our workers, we have endeavored, with resolve and purpose, to develop a reputation throughout the state for an uncompromising focus on quality, customer service and, most importantly, people.
From the way we conduct business, to the way we support the incredible men and women we proudly employ, all of our relationships are all built on a solid foundation of trust.
Whether you are an individual, organization, or a business, we hope that if you ever need secure data destruction, you will consider giving the Meadows the chance to earn your trust.
Employment is a crucial part of every person’s life. Obviously, the financial reward for working is necessary to sustain ourselves - but, in reality, being employed is much more than that.
Most of us identify with our jobs. And, whether it’s right or wrong, other people form at least part of their opinion about us based on the kind of work we do. When you consider that employment occupies a major portion of our lives, its significance cannot be denied.
This is just as true for individuals with developmental disabilities. They want to have a meaningful job that will allow them to reach their potential. But before that can happen, they have to be given the opportunity to work.
That is why our nonprofit exists. We offer employment and vocational training to men and women with intellectual and physical challenges. These are individuals who, through no fault of their own, are frequently overlooked in the job market.
Unfortunately, these adults are typically judged by their diagnosis rather than by their humanity. Too often, potential employers fail to see past the particular challenges that an individual has.
But the Meadows is different. Because we value the worth of every person regardless of their disability, we’re committed to providing a safe and positive environment while delivering the support needed so they can perform their jobs to the best of their ability.
For the men and women, we proudly employ, work is far more than just a way to earn money. It gives them a sense of inclusion. It provides purpose, and it allows them to discover abilities that they never knew they had.
The fact that these adults are successfully employed is an example of what people with developmental disabilities can accomplish. The general public gets to see first-hand the quality of their work, and the entire community benefits.
Of course, there are many types of employment. Some jobs are uplifting and some can be drudgery. Just because there is a paycheck attached to a particular activity doesn’t magically bestow it with meaning for the person who has to carry it out.
Individuals with developmental disabilities want to spend their day engaged in tasks that challenge them and build their confidence. They want to have goals they can strive for. They want to be part of an organization where they are valued.
Our nonprofit meets all of those criteria. The men and women who work with us, earn the respect of their coworkers and our customers. As they progress and gain experience, they attempt increasingly complex assignments. Each step of the way, they’re given the instruction and assistance needed to become proficient at their jobs.
However, it is important to understand that employment for adults in our organization is not what the public is accustomed to. Work requires a deeper level of focus when you can only use one hand. Tasks take on a different perspective when mobility and balance issues must be addressed to ensure a person’s safety. Mastering vocational skills become more complicated when dealing with short term memory loss or sensory issues. And the difficulty of maintaining your concentration is magnified when you are at risk of having a seizure at any moment.
And yet, these are the types of challenges our employees deal with every day.
But despite the fact that such circumstances are an irreversible part of their lives, these men and women take great satisfaction in their jobs. They are eager to come to work because they know their efforts will be acknowledged and appreciated.
Too often positive feedback has been lacking in their lives. That’s why, for a person who has been repeatedly discouraged in their efforts to find steady employment, eventually being hired has tremendous meaning for them and their families.
It is not by accident that the name of our nonprofit explains our mission.
We are the Meadows Center for Opportunity, and it is our privilege to work with such incredible men and women.
Although there is much debate over whether 2020 or 2021 is the start of the next decade, for our purposes, we are going to look out over the next ten years starting January 1, 2020.
As the calendar changes, it is the perfect time to reflect on the future of the Meadows. Although long-range planning is always subject to change when difficulties and unexpected situations arise, we believe that being prepared and remaining flexible will allow us to traverse the ups and downs of common economic cycles.
Since our organization’s inception in 1983, our growth has, thankfully, been steadily on the rise. We certainly expect that to continue, and we look forward to the next ten years with both hope and confidence.
The need for our shredding business continues to grow and because we provide excellent service at an affordable price, we expect to not only maintain our share of that market but to also increase it.
But the importance of the Meadows is measured by far more important criteria than numbers on a financial statement. As a non-profit, we are focused at all times on having a positive impact, and we believe in the coming decade the Meadows will be of service in three specific areas.
Obviously, the decade ahead will hold difficult challenges, many of them unforeseen at this time. However, the Meadows is well-positioned to capitalize on opportunities as they develop and to overcome any challenges that may occur.
Our strength is, first and foremost, the incredible men and women we are privileged to employ. It is their desire to excel that allows our business to thrive. Additionally, our dedicated staff is committed to the success of our organization. They work alongside our employees offering support and always striving to achieve the best possible results in our business endeavors.
Behind the scenes, we are fortunate to be blessed with a gifted management team and an experienced board of directors. Their passion for the mission of the Meadows will continue to guide our organization through the day to day operations that ultimately make the difference between success or failure.
For all of these reasons, we believe the coming decade will be one of prosperity and accomplishment. We look forward to tackling the challenges that we know will come because we have complete confidence in our team.
You are invited to follow along and stay engaged with us. Our non-profit depends on the support of caring people who believe in what our organization represents and the principals we stand for.
We wish all of you a safe and Happy New Year!
It is an undeniable fact that human beings have always been willing to pass judgment and jump to conclusions about people who they believe are different from them. Unfortunately, this is particularly true when it comes to individuals with developmental disabilities.
These negative perceptions occur because we allow our emotions to guide our thinking instead of seeking the truth which can require effort and an open mind. Consequently, we are quick to label people with challenges and to categorize them for our own convenience. We fail to understand that no two people are the same and that each individual has their own personality and character. But we are, unfortunately, eager to form an opinion about their life without knowing a thing about them.
Here are five common situations that we are all familiar with. In each case, you encounter a person you think cannot possibly be a productive member of society.
You are shopping at the mall when two individuals walk past you. Suddenly one of them collapses with a seizure. You watch in shock as the convulsions run their course. Certain that the person lives in terror with the knowledge that a seizure could occur at any moment, you feel great sympathy for them. You assume their quality of life is compromised and that because of their epilepsy they cannot accomplish anything of significance.
You are eating at a restaurant when a person comes in with another adult. You can’t help but stare as they follow their hostess to their table. The individual has partial paralysis on one side of their body and there is visible scarring that indicates that they have endured multiple surgeries. The person walks with a pronounced limp, and you can see that their arm is immobile. You can’t imagine how they make it through the day living with those kinds of issues.
You are waiting to check out at the store. The individual in front of you is trying to communicate with the cashier, but their speech is extremely difficult to understand. The people behind you become impatient as the person struggles to convey their thoughts to the cashier who just wants them to move along and get out of the way. You feel great pity for the individual as you wonder what kind of “affliction” could’ve caused their inability to communicate clearly.
You are in line to buy a ticket for a movie when an individual standing with their mother becomes agitated about something. Very quickly the person’s behavior escalates and they begin to yell as they lose control of their emotions. Their mother tries to help them calm down, but she is not successful in getting the person to relax. You and others watch with silent disapproval as you harshly judge her lack of parenting skills for allowing this to happen in public.
You are waiting for an elevator. The doors open and a person carefully steps out pushing a walker. Their balance is precarious and their legs seem stiff and rigid. It is obvious that they would not be able to walk without the assistive device. You suspect their life is limited in countless ways because of their lack of mobility, and you can’t help thinking it would be better for them to stop trying to walk altogether and to just use a wheelchair.
What do these five people have in common?...... Yes, they each have a disability. Yes, it affects certain areas of their lives, and yes, their diagnosis is often used to unfairly define them. But what might surprise you is one other thing that they have in common. Something positive. Something meaningful. Something that deserves to be acknowledged.
All of these individuals are successfully employed at the Meadows.
Along with almost forty other men and women with intellectual challenges, these five individuals work each day at a variety of jobs that not only provide them with a hard-earned paycheck but also build self-esteem and self-confidence. They learn vocational skills, but, even more importantly, they are given every opportunity to reach their personal potential.
But when these same individuals go out in public, people rush to judge them based on nothing more than appearances. That kind of narrow-mindedness is unfair and unjust.
Obviously, there is an important lesson that must be learned.
When we encounter a person with an intellectual, physical or emotional challenge, we should treat them just like we would anyone else. They deserve to be understood and accepted for who they are as a person. They deserve to be treated with dignity. They deserve to be respected.
The men and women we proudly employ are perfect examples of what people with developmental disabilities can achieve in a positive work setting that offers support and encouragement.
The truth is simple. Every person, regardless of what their challenges happen to be, has the right to live their best life.
That is what our employees do every day.
In a world where men and women with developmental disabilities are too often ignored and forgotten, or marginalized on the fringes of society, the Meadows is an organization where they can find a home.
Our nonprofit is a place where these adults are welcomed and accepted for who they are. They quickly discover their work environment is designed specifically to help them reach their potential. Individuals learn vocational tasks along with interpersonal skills and enjoy a level of socialization many have never had.
The results of employment are quickly evident as we witness amazing transformations in people who come out of their shells and reveal their true personalities. Families often tell us that even after being at the Meadows for just a brief time, their loved one seems like a different person.
Working and earning a paycheck helps an individual develop a feeling of self-worth, and they become more independent and willing to accept responsibilities that were once considered out of reach.
Building on small successes leads to the confidence to attempt bigger more complex jobs. With patience and the proper support, our employees often achieve far more than they ever dreamed was possible. The satisfaction they feel when they accomplish a task that required perseverance and dedication is deeply rewarding.
But to have that kind of personal success, they first have to be given the chance to work. The role of the Meadows is to offer employment to individuals who need adaptions and supports that other businesses are unwilling to provide. That means we are prepared to deal with a complete range of challenges including intellectual, physical, and emotional issues.
The latter is a particular concern that other employers choose to avoid. But we have found that with patience and the proper guidance, a person can learn to adjust their frustrations and anger into more positive forms of energy that allow them to go through their day without any undue stress or anxiety.
For the men and women who work with us, there is no pressure to perform. They progress at their own pace. They soon discover that making mistakes is part of the learning process and nothing to be feared. That would not be the case in many other jobs.
No one is ever reduced to a list of symptoms, characteristics, or behaviors. They are never compared to others, No one is labeled in broad terms for the sake of convenience because no two people are alike. Each individual is treated like the unique person they are.
The adults we hire take great pride in being employed and typically respond with dedication and commitment. Each day, they give their best effort and, in so doing, they expand the parameters of what is possible for them - and that is the result we are looking for.
Without services like ours, too many people with developmental disabilities would continue to spend their days trapped at home not having the chance to learn and develop new skills and abilities. When that occurs, it’s a loss for everyone.
We want their employment to open up a world that was previously denied to them because we know that kind of powerful experience will have a lasting impact on them and their families.
It is the desire to see our employees succeed that drives every decision we make. No matter what the situation happens to be, the prime consideration is whether or not it will have a positive effect on our workers. We have structured our business in a way that allows us to ensure that the adults we proudly employ have everything they need to thrive in a work setting.
That is why our organization exists, and why we will always operate in a way that benefits them.
It is certainly our hope that the time will come when every person, no matter what their challenges, is considered a candidate to work in the community – but until that point is reached, we will remain an important option for employment.
The Meadows Center for Opportunity matters because we give deserving men and women the chance to change their lives.
The Meadows annual Walk-A-Thon, held on Saturday, October 12th, was a tremendous success, and we want to thank everyone who participated.
But there is even more good news!
Fortunately, it’s not too late for you to donate to our fundraiser. You still have time to make a contribution that will help our organization change lives.
The Meadows Center for Opportunity offers employment and vocational training for men and women with developmental disabilities and other intellectual and physical challenges. As a nonprofit, we depend on this fundraiser to help offset operational costs, to make improvements to our facility, and to upgrade our equipment.
Your support is crucial in our efforts to provide work for people who are too often overlooked in the job market. They are frequently denied the chance to earn a paycheck, and, most importantly, they are not given the opportunity to reach their potential.
Thankfully, our employees realize that we appreciate and value them not for what they can do but for who they are as people. These individuals are committed, dedicated and eager to learn. Their work ethic is admirable. They take pride in their jobs, and it shows in the results our business achieves.
Thousands of customers around the state know they can depend on the Meadows to deliver prompt professional service. They trust our organization for the secure data destruction of their sensitive material. Their long-term loyalty reflects the quality of work that we consistently provide.
That is why this time of year is so important to us. We need your financial assistance so our employees can continue to experience the dignity of work.
Each time a person with a developmental disability is successfully employed, it’s an achievement that deserves to be acknowledged.
That is particularly true of the adults in our organization. Because many of them have serious on-going health issues, our work environment is structured in a way that allows us to continuously monitor their activities and to respond immediately should any problems occur.
So, even if individuals have frequent seizures, require assistive devices for mobility, have limited vision, or partial paralysis - our staff has the proper training to make sure that each person’s needs are met and that they can safely and comfortably do their jobs.
But no matter what their personal challenges happen to be, the positive attitudes of our employees clearly reveal their inner strength and character. Each day they demonstrate courage, perseverance, and a sense of responsibility as they perform a variety of vocational tasks to the best of their ability.
We could not be prouder of the men and women who work with us, and we believe their employment is a cause worth supporting.
If you agree, please consider making a financial contribution to the Meadows so that we can continue our mission of providing meaningful work in a safe and supportive setting for individuals who deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.
You can use the DONATE BUTTON at the top of the page or you are welcome to contact our office at 405-348-4470.
People frequently contact the Meadows to see if we are currently hiring individuals with intellectual challenges. Unfortunately, as much as we wish we could, the answer is NO.
We would love to increase our workforce and offer jobs to more men and women with disabilities – but, sadly, we believe that, for several different reasons that are beyond our control, it is not appropriate at this time.
For one thing, Oklahoma’s legislators appear to be hopelessly mired in petty politics, and that is preventing them from reaching any type of long-term solution to the severe funding issues facing our state. Lobbyists representing several major industries have the money that politicians crave and that is taking the focus off of the funding for those who are in need but who are too often not heard.
However, even if the worst happens and the Meadows eventually loses government funding, we will be able to survive. We have an established business that can sustain us at our present level. None of the people we currently employ will lose their jobs.
But that is not the case for other nonprofits like ours. Some of them will be forced to close their doors and the people who depend on them for a job will be unemployed.
That is heartbreaking and unacceptable.
Those individuals have overcome tremendous obstacles in order to be successfully employed, and now there is the chance that all of that will be taken away from them by bureaucrats who have no idea of how difficult it is for someone with a developmental disability to find a job.
Another serious problem we face regarding the government is their belief that a workshop setting is no longer a viable employment option for people with intellectual challenges. They feel that each individual, regardless of their personal circumstances, should be forced to work in the community.
We strongly disagree with that opinion.
While we are certainly in favor of individuals participating in community employment whenever that is possible, it is not always a realistic goal for people who require close monitoring for health or behavior issues.
Organizations like the Meadows offer a safe and supportive setting that allows men and women to engage in meaningful work who would otherwise be excluded from the job market.
The government’s refusal to acknowledge that every person deserves to work – not just those who can be employed in the community – is both disturbing and harmful in the sense that it is preventing us from hiring more individuals who have the right to a job.
And as if all of that wasn’t enough, the government is now saying that the people with intellectual challenges who are already successfully employed at the Meadows should be moved into community jobs - and they are backing up this demand with the threat that federal funding will be pulled from any organization that is not compliant.
It is impossible to comprehend that kind of thinking.
The government actually wants to take away the jobs of people who have been employed with us for ten, twenty or thirty years. They want to force them into community jobs which, for a significant number of them, will not be appropriate and will, therefore, leave them unemployed.
And, incredibly, the government is holding us responsible for these new community jobs. They are expecting the Meadows to interrupt our employees’ work day, which means their pay stops while they are out of the building, so they can be taken into the community to try and find them a job when they already have one. And, once again, if we do not comply we lose funding.
This possibility is being raised in IP meetings and our families are becoming increasingly upset to think that the government is trying to take away the jobs, that in many cases, their loved ones have had for decades.
If you stop and think about it, it’s inconceivable that any other type of business would be expected to find different jobs for the people they already employ.
But when it comes to individuals with intellectual challenges, the government has a double standard.
For the men and women we work with, having a job at the Meadows is an important part of their lives. It gives them the opportunity to develop both vocational skills and social skills. It helps them build their self-esteem as they grow in confidence. It gives them a sense of responsibility, and it allows them to earn a paycheck.
We wish we could extend this same opportunity to other people who deserve to work - but at this point in time, we can’t.
For all of the reasons listed above, we have no choice but to maintain a hiring freeze.
Until a determination is made on government funding going forward, and until our elected officials stop interfering with people’s lives, we cannot hire more men and women with disabilities.
We hope for the benefit of everyone concerned that this is a temporary situation - but, unfortunately, when money and politics are involved it seems that those who are vulnerable suffer the most.
The mission of our organization is to provide employment and vocational training for adults with developmental disabilities as well as other intellectual and physical challenges.
But, in reality, what happens at the Meadows is far more important than that.
The individuals we employ come from every walk of life. They have a wide variety of experiences and abilities. Some of them attempted to work in the community but for whatever reasons they were not successful. This led them to the Meadows where they found a place that changed their lives.
On the other hand, we have people who have been with us from our inception back in 1983. Their thirty-five years of service demonstrate incredible dedication and commitment. Others have joined us at various stages of their lives and for many different reasons.
But whatever situation brought them to us, we know that it is a serious mistake to focus solely on their disabilities. Each one of these men and women are so much more than their diagnosis.
Every person at the Meadows has qualities and characteristics that are unique to them and no one else. That is why it’s wrong to make assumptions about people with intellectual challenges.
A person with Down syndrome is not like every other person with an extra chromosome. An individual with autism does not represent anyone else on the spectrum. Someone with a traumatic brain injury does not share the same challenges as others with that medical condition. An individual who has had a brain tumor has a different experience than someone else with the same diagnosis.
And it’s because of their uncommon perspective that they’re able to teach the rest of us about life. They define what success really means. They demonstrate, in powerful ways, how human beings should treat each other. They present an example of how the world could be if we would just learn to accept each other instead of judging.
Spending time with them and seeing firsthand how they creatively handle personal challenges makes me far less likely to complain about my own problems. They serve as a constant reminder not to take my life for granted.
But despite difficulty with motor skills, dealing with speech disorders or negotiating mobility issues, the men and women we employ are relentlessly upbeat and enthusiastic. They rarely get down about any particular aspect of their life. They take each day as if comes and make the most of it. They do not waste time dwelling on what could be or feeling regret for the way things are. They are too busy living their lives.
Their focus is on today – not the past.
They also have an amazing capacity to forgive and let go, and that is fortunate because many of them have faced mistreatment at the hands of others. Everything from a lack of respect to outright bullying has been a part of at least some of their lives. But their ability to move past that type of behavior has allowed them to become stronger people who are willing to look forward and not be weighed down by things they cannot change.
That is a level of wisdom we should all attempt to achieve.
No matter what job you have, it is unlikely that you enjoy the kind of satisfaction that comes with working with people who have developmental disabilities.
Because of the remarkable men and women we are privileged to serve, no two days at the Meadows are exactly alike. Each one is an adventure in its own way. There are moments that are hilarious and other times that touch your heart.
But through it all, it is our employees who make the work experience so rewarding.
For those of you who are familiar with the Meadows, you know that on this blog we focus primarily on intellectual challenges. That is because each of the men and women we employ has an IQ of 70 or less, which is the state’s criteria of determining a developmental disability.
However, many of the adults who work with us also live with physical challenges. Because this form of disability is typically more visible, it can elicit a variety of responses from the public, including sympathy, pity and the belief that to live with such a challenge is somehow “inspiring”.
But our employees simply face their physical issues as part of their lives. Nothing more or less. They do not dwell on the fact that they use a walker for their balance, or that they need leg braces for strength and stability. They are not concerned that they utilize a wheelchair for long distances. It is just part of their life. They accept it and move on.
Physical challenges can occur for many different reasons. Everything from being born with cerebral palsy to having a stroke, brain tumor or traumatic brain injury can all result in paralysis, muscle weakness, lack of coordination, and neurological impairment.
Every one of these issues is experienced by at least some of the individuals we employ. But each day, with patience and perseverance, they are able to do their jobs despite the particular challenges they face. They are not trying to be inspirational; they are just attempting to do their work to the best of their ability.
Obviously, living with physical challenges can add complexity and stress to everyday life. Many of the things that you and I take for granted, such as freedom of movement, strength, and stamina, are lacking in some degree for those we employ.
Anyone who has broken their arm or leg knows how it changes your daily experience. Not having the full use of your extremities alters almost everything you do. You constantly have to make adjustments, and sometimes you have to rely on others for help.
It is the same for the men and women of the Meadows. Occasionally they need assistance with certain tasks, but despite a wide array of challenges, each person is able to do their job. The fact that modifications are sometimes required in their work environment does not diminish their achievements.
It is the way our employees choose to deal with their physical challenges that make the difference. They show up for work each day determined to be successful no matter obstacles they face. And although they might have to alter how they approach their work assignment, it does not frustrate them. Their sense of satisfaction is derived from completing their job. How it was accomplished is of no importance. All that matters is that they were able to finish what they started.
I have watched as our workers displayed tremendous creativity in how they dealt with a particular task. Often they do not need to ask for help because they cleverly find ways to perform their job assignments on their own. To them it is nothing extraordinary, it’s just what they need to do in order to achieve the desired outcome. Their physical challenge doesn’t register with them as an impediment. It is nothing more than something to work around.
Unfortunately, however, we often consider them to be broken or incomplete in some way. We view them as someone who is not perfect, someone who is less. We unfairly impose our bias and misconceptions on a person instead of accepting them for who they are.
It is astounding just how foolish we can be.
To discount someone whose body looks or moves differently than yours is the height of ignorance because neither of those circumstances plays any part in determining the worth of a person.
For our employees, having a physical challenge does not prevent them from enjoying their lives. They are actively involved in the community. They have many interests, and they pursue their hopes and dreams with passion.
These men and women set an example for all us to follow. They do not obsess over their challenges - so why should we?
Ultimately, we must understand that having an intellectual or physical challenge is not nearly as debilitating as being intolerant and judgmental.