The word impossible is often recklessly thrown around without sufficient cause. When an activity is erroneously stuck with that label, it automatically creates obstacles that may not be accurate. It casts doubts on what can be achieved, and it reinforces a negative belief that could be completely wrong.
Have you ever been told that something you wanted to do was impossible? Did that stop you, or did you go ahead and attempt it?
If you decided to make the effort, you quickly learned that it takes courage to step out of your comfort zone and try to do what others say can’t be done. It is a test of character to face a challenge when you don’t know if you can overcome it. And it is an act of empowerment when you accomplish a task that was wrongly considered to be beyond your capabilities.
For many of the men and women we work with, having a job was thought to be impossible for them. Because they had a developmental disability, it was automatically assumed that they could not be successfully employed. However, those assumptions were based solely on misconceptions that led to unfair judgment. They were not based on facts.
Over the last four decades, the Meadows has assisted adults with a wide spectrum of intellectual and physical challenges in achieving their goal of having a meaningful job, even though others were convinced it could not happen.
But the determination and persistence of these men and women allowed them to not only land a job and keep it, they flourished as their abilities improved over time. Correspondingly, that led to an increase in their self-esteem and sense of self-worth. For these adults, long-term employment has led to success in other areas of life. With hard-earned confidence, they are more willing to attempt new endeavors and explore new interests.
Unfortunately, however, not enough businesses are willing to hire people with developmental disabilities. The unemployment rate for this portion of the population is significantly higher than other segments of society.
A person with an intellectual challenge cannot know if they can do a job until they are allowed to try. But it is a certainty that without an opportunity, employment will forever remain out of reach.
That is why an organization like ours can make a difference. At the Meadows, individuals who would otherwise be pushed aside and ignored are given the chance they deserve to earn a paycheck. They get to experience the dignity of work while they develop a level of vocational proficiency that will benefit them for the rest of their lives. They become more independent and self-reliant. They learn social skills and how to interact as part of a team. Overall, their lives are positively affected in countless ways.
Happily, they are living proof that just because someone says something can’t be done doesn’t make it a fact.
We are proud that our nonprofit provides an encouraging and constructive environment that allows our workers to thrive and accomplish what others thought was only a dream that could never come true.
But the real credit belongs to the individuals themselves. The reason they have defied the skeptics is because of the extraordinary effort they consistently give. They are proud to have a job, and their commitment and dedication motivate them to excel and reach their potential.
Over the last forty years, it has been a privilege for the Meadows to play a part in the success achieved by men and women with developmental disabilities, and we look forward to continuing to be a safe and supportive place of employment that is always filled with possibilities.
It’s time for the Meadows annual Walk-A-Thon!
This year, our 41st fundraiser will be held at Mitch Park in Edmond, Oklahoma, on Saturday, October 14th at 10:00 a.m. You are invited to join us!
The Walk-A-Thon is not only a fun event for family and friends, but it is also critically important to our non-profit because donations are one of the sources of revenue we depend on.
This year, our goal is to raise $40,000.00. The money will be used to upgrade our equipment so we can continue to provide our 2,500 customers statewide with the highest quality of service possible. Because they trust us with their data destruction needs, we are committed to constantly improving our capabilities so that our customers can remain confident that the security of their sensitive material is our number one priority.
However, there is another reason why our Walk-A-Thon is essential to us.
The funds raised will help us sustain our mission of providing meaningful employment for men and women with developmental disabilities and other intellectual and physical challenges.
In case you are not familiar with our organization, here is a brief description of the work environment we have created to foster the success of our employees.
The Meadows is a place of business where:
* People are accepted for who they are – not for what they can or cannot do.
* Each person learns at a pace that is comfortable for them.
* Positive reinforcement is used to encourage and motivate.
* Each individual’s health and well-being is monitored at all times.
* Personal growth occurs as challenges are met and overcome.
* Individuals are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve.
But most importantly, the Meadows is a place of hope! And hope is the bridge between what is and what can be.
I think you will agree that hope is the one thing that every person needs in life. But for men and women with developmental disabilities, their hopes for a job often seem just out of reach. Through no fault of their own, they are frequently misjudged and wrongly assumed to be unemployable without ever being given the chance to work.
Businesses worry that it would require extra time and effort to train someone with a disability, or there could be health and safety issues to deal with. Also, behavioral problems could impact the workplace.
Fortunately, however, our non-profit is prepared to handle any of these concerns because we know that with the proper support, adults with intellectual challenges make excellent employees.
They are dedicated, committed, and eager to reach their potential. They take pride in their jobs, and it shows in their accomplishments. Their work ethic is exceptional.
That is why contributions from corporations, organizations, and individuals like you are vital. It is your generosity that will help the Meadows continue to be the bridge of hope to employment for men and women with developmental disabilities.
If you would like to make a donation, you may use a credit card or PayPal through our website at https://www.meadowsoklahoma.com. At the top of the page, click DONATE, or you may mail a check to The Meadows Center for Opportunity, 1000 S. Kelly Ave, Edmond, OK, 73003.
As you read this, you are, hopefully, leading a relatively comfortable life. If you’re fortunate, you are working full-time while also engaging in leisure activities that you enjoy. You are able to travel whenever and wherever you want, and you have the financial resources to meet your basic needs with enough extra to save for the future. You most likely rent or own a home, and you probably have at least one vehicle and possibly two.
You are active in the community and accepted as an equal member of society. Consequently, your rights as a citizen are respected. No doubt you have freedom of choice in almost every area of your life.
However, millions of Americans live with a very different reality. They are men and women who have a developmental disability.
The following is a list of some of the challenges these individuals experience. Please take a moment and try to imagine what your life would be like if -
* You could not safely live independently
* You could not drive a car
* You had serious health conditions that required constant monitoring
* You had significant issues with your memory
* You had difficulty following verbal instructions
* You struggled to focus for long periods of time
* You were not able to control your emotions
* You could not speak clearly
* You did not understand money
* You could not read labels on medicine
* You were not able to write your name
* You did not know how to tie your shoes
Unfortunately, too many of us make the mistake of taking our lives for granted, and we forget to be grateful for all of the positive things, big and small, that make up our daily existence. We fall into the trap of assuming that, for the foreseeable future, we will continue to be blessed with good health that allows us to be active and live the way we want.
But consider this fact. The challenges listed above are not always present from birth. That means, in a heartbeat, any of us could have an accident or medical crisis that would change our reality forever. For the rest of your life, you could be living with some of the same issues.
Of course, as you tried to adjust to your new circumstances, you would not want people to think of you differently. You would not want them to focus exclusively on your disability. You would not want to be defined only by what you could no longer do. You would not want to be thought of as being less.
It is the same for individuals who are born with their challenges.
People with developmental disabilities are just that. They are people. They have the same hopes and dreams as anyone else. They often succeed, but sometimes they fail. They can be happy or sad. They are not trying to be inspiring, nor are they someone to pity. They are flesh and blood human beings trying to live their best lives, and they each deserve the opportunity to learn, grow, and reach their potential. And one of the best ways to accomplish that is through meaningful employment.
Because having a job can change someone’s life in so many positive ways, the Meadows is proud to hire those who have so much to offer if they are only given the chance.
Most of the men and women who work with us have at least a few of the listed challenges, and some have more than others. So, from outward appearances, their lives might look very different from yours. But it is important to remember that in the ways that really matter, we are all the same.
Whatever our particular situation in life, it has no bearing on our humanity because we all have challenges of one kind or another. It’s how we react to them that makes the difference.
The adults we are privileged to employ face their challenges with perseverance and dedication. They are committed to doing their best as they display a tremendous work ethic while performing their jobs. They do not let their disability stand in their way or hold them back. They continue to live their life to the fullest, and they enjoy being the person they are.
And even though their reality may indeed seem different from yours – it is a reality these men and women embrace with grace, determination, and courage.
Communication is a basic human need and desire. Successfully interacting with those around us is crucial for our physical, mental, and emotional well-being. It provides a rich connection to the rest of the world that benefits everyone.
However, imagine you are trying to explain to someone what you need or want, but they cannot comprehend what you are saying - or they refuse to try to understand. But as bad as that is, it could be even worse. Imagine if you were desperately attempting to convey that you were in pain or in danger, but no one cared enough to listen.
No one wants to feel alone or isolated because of circumstances beyond their control. But it can happen when a person knows in their mind what they are trying to say, but they cannot articulate it clearly.
Unfortunately, we live in a fast-paced world with attention spans that are becoming increasingly shorter. For some, it can be jarring when they encounter an individual who requires extra time to express themselves. Many people live their life in a rush and, therefore, believe they have little time to interact with someone who requires a listener to be patient and attentive.
Sadly, the negative reactions of others add unnecessary issues to having a speech disorder. Too often, the public ignores, misjudges, or disrespects a person they perceive as different. They sometimes assume that an individual with a speech challenge does not understand what they are being told. Or they believe that a communication issue indicates the level of someone’s intelligence. But how a person expresses themselves does not necessarily correspond with their ability to comprehend conversation.
When someone refuses to understand and acknowledge the desires and wishes of a person with a speech disorder, it is demeaning. They are showing that, in their opinion, what the individual has to say doesn’t matter. They are making it clear that they do not believe the person is worth the trouble.
So, how do you think it would feel to be treated that way?
Challenges with their speech can influence every part of an individual’s life. It can affect a person’s opportunity to make friends, develop relationships, and participate in activities - including employment.
Fortunately, here at The Meadows, communication issues are not a stumbling block to having a meaningful job. Over the last four decades, we have successfully employed many adults with speech disorders, including some currently working with us.
Through a combination of positive support and encouragement, it is possible for our employees to fully engage in a variety of job tasks no matter what their speech happens to be. Happily, it doesn’t take long before they quickly fit in and become part of our team. And it is rewarding to watch them gain confidence as they master new skills and achieve impressive goals.
These men and women thrive in our organization because we accept them for who they are, which means they are free to communicate in the way that makes them feel most comfortable. That allows them to relax and focus on their work.
Making an effort to understand what an individual is trying to convey is a form of respect. It shows that you are willing to treat them with dignity because you acknowledge their right to express themselves.
To be an inclusive society, we must accept the fact that no matter what type of speech disorder someone has, they deserve to have their thoughts, ideas, and opinions understood and appreciated.
There can be no exceptions.
Is your job important to you? Does it add meaning to your life? Do you look forward to going to work? Or do you dread it?
Employment is different things to different people. Some folks have a career that gives them purpose. Others have a skill or trade they have mastered. And for some, a job is nothing more than a paycheck, a means of keeping a roof over their heads.
Chances are good that your current job is not your first. Most people go through several before finding work that suits them, and if you lost your current position, you would most likely find the next one without too much effort.
But for men and women with developmental disabilities, landing that first job can be extremely difficult. And if they do have a job but lose it, statistics show it is much harder for them to find another one.
That is because the majority of businesses will not hire a person with specific challenges.
· Most will not even consider employing someone who has multiple seizures each day.
· Many are unwilling to make the necessary adjustments so that an individual who becomes easily fatigued can continue to work safely.
· Very few will hire someone who has behavioral issues that could, from time to time, affect their performance in the workplace.
However, we are the exception. The primary mission of The Meadows is to provide employment for men and women with developmental disabilities who are frequently denied the opportunity to have a job based on factors that are beyond their control.
When someone wants to work but they are not given the chance, we believe it is wrong. That’s why we are pleased to hire adults who have so much to offer but who have been unfairly rejected by others.
Each time a person with an intellectual challenge joins our organization, a new world opens up for them. That is because The Meadows is a place of belonging. It’s a place where they learn to work as part of a team and where they accomplish a variety of tasks at their own pace, without pressure and forced expectations. But most importantly, it’s a place where they are accepted for who they are.
For an individual who requires a vocational setting that meets their specific needs, it can be life-changing to go to work with us. Typically, it is a positive experience for their entire family because parents and siblings have often made considerable sacrifices to help their loved ones reach that milestone.
Unfortunately, many businesses have a high turnover of employees, and it is a constant struggle to find new people and train them. But that is not an issue for our company. The men and women who come to work with us are happy to be here, which is why some individuals have stayed for decades.
We have found that when people with intellectual challenges are employed, they display a tremendous work ethic as they consistently attempt to do their job to the best of their ability. They take pride in their accomplishments, and they are always striving to improve and achieve more.
Over the last 40 years, The Meadows has been privileged to make a significant difference in the lives of adults with developmental disabilities. The men and women who have passed through our doors have been remarkable in their dedication and commitment. They have proven the skeptics wrong by showing that, without a doubt, people with intellectual challenges can be a vital part of the workforce.
In the future, we will continue to focus on hiring individuals who deserve the opportunity to find meaningful long-term employment because we believe that every person has the right to work.
Over the last four decades, The Meadows has hired adults with a broad spectrum of intellectual challenges. For the most part, this has been richly rewarding for all concerned as we’ve been privileged to witness firsthand the way people’s lives have been transformed in positive and meaningful ways by being employed.
However, there is a particular aspect of working with these men and women that is incredibly difficult - but unavoidable. It is the fact that there can be overwhelming health issues that occur as they grow older.
In some cases, people with a developmental disability diagnosis age faster than other segments of the population, and eventually their capabilities can be compromised in such a way that they can no longer work safely.
While not every person with an intellectual challenge will be at risk, it is true that the onset of decline sometimes starts earlier and progresses more rapidly in someone with this type of disability. When an individual reaches that stage of their life, they become more vulnerable and, therefore, dependent on others.
This period of transition can be an unsettling time. The man or woman who is aging at an accelerated rate may not fully understand that their circumstances have changed. Meanwhile, their family faces life-altering decisions regarding the future of their loved one.
But it is important to remember that when someone is battling the ravages of age, their life still has just as much meaning as it did when they were younger and in better health. They are still the same person. They are loved, and they have an impact on the world around them. They deserve compassion and should always be treated with dignity and respect.
During the past 40 years, The Meadows has had older employees whose condition deteriorated to the point where their ability to work without risk and undue stress was negatively affected. Sadly, through close consultation with their families, it was decided that it would be best for them to step down from their job.
Those situations are the most challenging we face. No one wants to say goodbye to a valued coworker who, more importantly, was a friend. But it is undeniable that one day many of us will no longer be able to care for ourselves without the assistance of others. And when that time comes, we will each believe that our life still matters and that we should be treated accordingly.
The men and women who have left our organization because of health issues are always in our thoughts. Their years of dedicated service and commitment were an integral part of our success, and in return they experienced the dignity of work and the pride of earning a well-deserved paycheck.
Tragically, some of those individuals eventually lost their struggle with age. But the sadness we will always feel is tempered by the joy we had working side by side as we shared years of fun and laughter. Through those heartwarming memories, our friends will live on.
They will never be forgotten, and they will be forever missed.
How do we place a value on a person’s life?
Throughout history, that is a concept that has plagued mankind. The belief that some people are not our equal has resulted in untold misery for the human race. Regrettably, we have not always learned from our mistakes, so consequently, many of those negative attitudes and stereotypes still exist today.
Unfortunately, that is sometimes true for the men and women we employ. The adults we work with have developmental disabilities as well as physical challenges. Does that somehow make their lives less valuable? No, it does not. But too often, what we consider to be our “differences” are used to elevate one person or group over another. However, it is a fact that in the important ways that matter, we are all the same.
See if you agree with the following statements:
· The life of a person who is nonverbal has the same value as someone who is a gifted public speaker.
· The life of a person who uses a wheelchair or a walker is just as valuable as the life of a talented athlete.
· The life of a person who cannot drive has as much value as an individual who owns a Lexus.
· The life of a person living in a group home is just as valuable as the life of someone living in a gated community.
· The life of a person who works in a supported environment has the same value as the CEO of a corporation.
While it may seem that these comparisons become progressively more extreme - the particular circumstances of the people do not matter. Either we believe one life is equal to another – or we don’t. As soon as we start making exceptions, we begin heading down a road that leads to misconceptions, narrow-mindedness, and intolerance. That is because equality is an all-or-nothing proposition. We do not have the right to arbitrarily pick and choose which lives we think have the most value.
Sadly, when we do not embrace equality for all, society suffers. People, through no fault of their own, are excluded. They are marginalized and pushed aside. They are unfairly judged and disrespected.
However, when we open our hearts and minds and practice acceptance, tolerance, and inclusion, we all benefit. If everyone is allowed to participate and contribute in life, we can learn from each other. We discover how much we have in common. And when we support and encourage everyone, we allow people to reach their potential.
That is exactly what we do at The Meadows. The adults we employ are allowed to progress at their own pace. As they become comfortable in our work environment, they are encouraged to attempt new tasks while being given the support they need to accomplish the job. Most importantly, they are accepted for who they are, and they are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve.
The adults we are privileged to work with show us that the true value of a life is the joy a person brings into the world. It’s the way they treat others. It’s how they make people feel. It is the happiness they share. Those are the positive qualities our workers demonstrate every day.
Each one of these men and women makes the world a better place just by being themselves. That is why they are living proof that every life has the same value.
The mission of The Meadows has remained unchanged for the last four decades. We provide employment and vocational training for men and women with disabilities. This includes individuals with intellectual and physical challenges.
Fortunately, our ability to offer these jobs is the result of our successful business model. The main focus of our organization is secure data destruction. With 2,500 customers statewide, we shred and recycle four million pounds of documents annually.
We deliver the highest quality service possible, and in return, our customers reward us with their loyalty. We pride ourselves on not only being reliable but on being willing to go the extra mile. That is critically important because the relationships we foster with those we serve are based on trust. They depend on us to protect the confidentiality of their material, and we are committed to meeting and exceeding all their expectations.
As with any business, word of mouth is crucial to maintaining our success. We are always grateful when people spread the word about the positive experiences they have had with our company. Testimonials, recommendations, and positive reviews are powerful forms of advertising that we sincerely appreciate.
But, of course, we do not have the luxury of becoming complacent because of our past performance. It is imperative that we keep pushing forward as we strive for improvement.
The Meadows is in a highly competitive field that requires us to consistently update and expand our capabilities. The business climate changes frequently as technology becomes more prevalent and automation increases in the workplace.
However, because of the hands-on nature of our work, we believe that we will always be able to provide meaningful employment to adults with challenges. Another reason we are confident we can offer long-term jobs is that the shredding of documents is not outsourced. When security is a primary concern, there is considerably less risk when sensitive information is transported within the shortest possible distance.
Looking forward, we see many opportunities that we will be able to capitalize on. In the coming months, we will be purchasing machinery, equipment, and vehicles and adding personnel that will enable us to take our shredding capacity to another level. This will give us the chance to better serve our existing clientele while allowing us to increase our customer base.
We are excited about the future of our organization. Because of our financial stability and flexible business plan, we believe we’re prepared to meet whatever challenges we might face and to weather the economic ups and downs that all companies are subjected to.
But ultimately, the men and women we are privileged to work alongside will guide us in the years ahead. Every decision we implement will be to ensure their personal success, and consequently, everything we accomplish will be the result of their efforts.
Each day these individuals prove beyond any doubt that people with disabilities can not only be productive but can also thrive in a vocational setting.
It is for them that our staff, management, and board of directors will do everything in our power to create the bright future they deserve.
Those unfamiliar with The Meadows are often curious about the men and women we employ. That is understandable, and we are happy to provide an overview of our operation and the adults who work with us.
But before we get started, here is some general information about intellectual and physical challenges.
Many folks are surprised to learn that individuals with disabilities comprise the largest minority in the United States. Roughly 16% of the population, or about 54 million Americans, have some type of disability.
It is also worth noting that being a person with a disability is a “minority” that any of us could join at any point in our lives. And, of course, that possibility dramatically increases as we age. An accident, a head injury or a medical crisis could all result in a significant change in our intellectual or physical capabilities.
With that in mind, here is a partial list of the types of disabilities our employees have had in recent years.
- Developmental disabilities
- Down syndrome
- Fetal alcohol syndrome
- Cerebral palsy
- Prader-Willi syndrome
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Brain tumors
But there is an important point to be made concerning this collection of challenges.
Nothing on the list tells you anything about who they really are.
To give you a better understanding of the person, we need to focus on their humanity and not their diagnoses.
Let’s take a closer look at our employees.
*** Each man or woman with an intellectual challenge learns in their own way. In our vocational setting, guidance is tailored to the individual. One person might respond best to spoken instructions, while another could prefer a visual explanation. At our facility, it is not a “one size fits all” approach. We are happy to work with each employee in a way that makes them comfortable and allows them to understand their job with the least amount of stress possible.
*** Although a person has speech issues, that does not alter their desire to express themselves. In our work environment, we make every effort to ensure that each person’s thoughts, ideas, and opinions are understood and respected. Life is to be shared, and communication is one of the crucial ways human beings connect. But how a person communicates is not what matters. It’s what they have to say that counts.
*** An individual may have mobility issues, but they want to be as active as possible. Currently we have employees who use walkers and some who wear leg braces to assist them in maintaining their balance. In the past, we’ve also had individuals who used manual and electric wheelchairs. But how a man or woman moves does not affect their desire to participate fully in life, and that includes being employed in a safe and supportive setting.
*** Each adult we hire has their own unique personality. People often assume that because two individuals have the same diagnosis, they are the same in every other way. That’s like believing someone who drives a truck is like every other truck driver. You don’t want to be compared to anyone because there is no one else on earth like you. The same applies to every person, whether they have a disability or not.
The truth is, when it comes to the men and women we employ, they are no different than any other adult holding down a job. They constantly learn and refine their abilities while gaining valuable experience. They take on additional responsibilities as they become more confident. They develop new skills and enjoy the pride of earning a paycheck as they experience the dignity of work.
But the most important thing to know about our employees is that their success is the direct result of their commitment, dedication, and willingness to consistently give their best effort. Their positive attitudes coupled with a strong work ethic make us proud to have them in our organization.
Because, after all, what more could an employer ask?
In today’s society, there are still people who, unfortunately, have a negative opinion about what people with developmental disabilities can achieve in the workplace.
That type of attitude is one of the biggest stumbling blocks adults with intellectual challenges face. Insensitive people can be biased and dismissive. That means they neither understand nor appreciate the capabilities of these men and women.
Sadly, their misconceptions are based on assumptions rather than facts. That is unfair to individuals who have spent their lives seeking inclusion in the workforce but have been denied the chance to demonstrate their vocational abilities or learn new job skills that would benefit them in the future.
That is where The Meadows can make a difference.
For the last four decades, it has been our mission to hire adults with developmental disabilities. While other businesses refused to employ these individuals, we have been privileged to work with amazing men and women who consistently prove that they can be successfully employed.
Each day we witness firsthand what they are able to accomplish thanks to their commitment and positive attitudes. We see the pride they feel when they earn a paycheck, and we watch as they steadily grow in confidence and begin to take on additional responsibilities. Their dedication in performing their assigned tasks to the best of their ability is a perfect example of what an employee should be.
For these individuals, being successful in a vocational setting expands their world, helping them lead fuller, richer lives filled with purpose and satisfaction. The interpersonal skills they learn while on the job make them feel comfortable in the community as they develop their interests and engage in leisure activities. They begin to enjoy an active social life that allows them to make friends and have meaningful relationships.
Each of these aspects of their lives is important because our employees are just like anyone else. They have the same hopes and dreams that we all do. They experience happiness and sadness. They have successes and failures, and they share the universal desire to be understood and appreciated.
In the ways that truly matter, we are all the same.
Of course, long-held assumptions can be difficult to change. Most of us do not like to admit when we’re wrong, so we tend to cling to our beliefs about people, no matter how misguided.
But when you embrace a false notion that has a detrimental effect on other lives, it is crucial to find the inner strength to change your thinking. Stereotypes persist because we lack the courage to accept the truth - and when it comes to employment - the truth is that men and women with developmental disabilities want to work, and they have the right to work.
So, the next time you meet someone with an intellectual challenge, please resist the temptation to make assumptions. Do not rush to judgment, and try to avoid forming an opinion without knowing them as a person.
Instead treat them with the same kindness that you expect. Smile, greet them, and engage them in conversation if possible. There is no doubt that a positive interaction will benefit both of you.
And remember, the person you encounter might just be one of the men or women we proudly employ!