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.
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!
In a world filled with harsh judgment, cynicism, and intolerance, we all wish there was a place that made us feel respected and appreciated. Somewhere that treated us with dignity while allowing us to reach our potential and thrive.
The Meadows Center for Opportunity is such a place.
Since opening our doors in 1983, we have focused on hiring men and women with developmental disabilities and other intellectual and physical challenges. Many of these individuals were either denied the right to work, or they were unable to maintain jobs in the community. But fortunately, they found a home with us because we provide meaningful employment for adults who deserve to be valued not because of what they can or cannot do but for who they are.
That is why we have created an environment that fosters trust and goodwill. Under our roof, each individual is treated as a person – not as a diagnosis. These men and women are rightfully proud of their employment, and we make every possible effort to help them succeed. That includes adapting workstations and giving assistance and support as needed so that every person remains safe and comfortable.
Our facility is a place of discovery as new skills are developed in an uplifting atmosphere of encouragement. Positive reinforcement is used to temper any constructive guidance that is needed. Even if the outcome of a person’s attempt at a particular assignment is not what was hoped for, there is still valuable experience to be gained from their efforts that can be useful to them in the future.
As an individual slowly determines what skills and abilities they possess, we remain patient endeavoring to remove any feelings of pressure or anxiety which could hinder their ability to learn. It is our willingness to allow a person to progress at their own pace that sets The Meadows apart from other businesses that focus solely on results that affect their bottom line. Although we are a successful non-profit, that success is not achieved at the expense of our employees.
Additionally, we have a responsibility to the families of those we employ. We are humbled by the trust and faith they have in us. They depend on our staff and management to monitor the well-being of their loved ones at all times. And since the health of our workers is our primary concern, it’s a responsibility that governs our every decision and action.
Because of the employment and vocational training we offer, we are pleased to play a part in shattering the myth that people with developmental disabilities cannot work. We know this misconception has no basis in fact because each day, our employees demonstrate, beyond any doubt, that they can be productive citizens. And when these individuals have the chance to contribute, our society becomes more accepting and inclusive.
Every person with an intellectual challenge who passes through our doors richly blesses us in their own way. The satisfaction they experience when hired increases as they become proficient at their job. And as their employer, we also get to share the joy of their achievements and sense of accomplishment. It is our privilege to be a part of their growth and success.
That is why we intend to continue to serve the disability community by ensuring that The Meadows remains a place of new beginnings, where the dream of employment can become a reality.
In a vocational setting, potential is defined as having or showing the capacity to develop skills and abilities in the future. Happily, that is something we experience every day at The Meadows.
Because we employ adults with developmental disabilities and other intellectual and physical challenges, it is our responsibility to provide them with the opportunity to improve their existing skills while assisting them as they learn new vocational tasks.
Many of the people we hire have waited years, even decades, to earn a paycheck. So, because this is their first job, it takes time and patience to properly evaluate their capabilities. Of course, potential is unique to each of our employees. Every person has different strengths that deserve to be encouraged and supported.
Recognizing the potential in a worker requires us to make a fair assessment without preconceived notions. Just because someone has a particular challenge, we do not believe limitations should automatically be assumed. If there is an issue, it is addressed, and if modifications or adaptions are required, we make the necessary changes.
Obviously, a person will excel at some assignments while finding others more challenging. But in our system, there is work suitable for each individual. It is just a matter of determining what is appropriate.
That is why we never compare people. It’s not fair, and it is counterproductive to the positive environment we strive to create. A person should never feel pressured to perform as fast as someone else. We want an individual to work comfortably and steadily, and that cannot happen if they feel compelled to set a pace that is not sustainable.
But employment for men and women with developmental disabilities means more than just having a job. It helps them grow as a person. They take on more responsibility and learn the value of being part of a team. They set goals and strive to achieve them. The interactions they have with coworkers and customers improve their social skills. Their sense of belonging increases their self-esteem and gives them confidence.
And to ensure those positive qualities remain a part of their lives, we provide long-term job security. As our employees age, additional health issues can occur that might make a difference in what they can accomplish. However, we believe that just because someone’s proficiency at their job is altered, it does not mean they have any less right to work. Adjustments can be made, and expectations can be revised. If their safety is not compromised, employment should not be denied to someone just because their health has changed.
Every person with a developmental disability deserves to reach their potential. There can be no exceptions. All of society benefits when everyone is allowed to achieve what they can, accomplish what they are capable of, and make the maximum contribution possible.
It is unacceptable if men and women with intellectual challenges do not receive the opportunities they deserve. An individual can have tremendous potential, but that’s all it will ever be if they are not allowed to develop it.
Over the last 40 years, it has been our privilege to watch the incredible transformations that have taken place in people’s lives, all because someone believed in them and gave them a chance.
In the future, the mission of The Meadows will remain unchanged. We will continue to employ adults with intellectual disabilities so that they have the opportunity to reach their full potential.
It’s the 40th anniversary of The Meadows WALK-A-THON, and we invite you to celebrate with us!!! This year our fundraiser will be held at Mitch Park in Edmond, Oklahoma, on Saturday, October 22nd at 10:00 a.m.
Our goal is to raise $55,000.00. The money will assist with operational needs, upgrades in equipment, and all necessary improvements to maintain the safety and well-being of the men and women we are privileged to employ. These funds will allow us to continue to offer the highest quality of service to our more than 2,500 customers statewide who trust us with their secure data destruction needs.
Over the last four decades, the mission of The Meadows has never wavered. We provide meaningful employment and vocational training in a safe and supportive environment for adults with developmental disabilities and other intellectual and physical challenges.
To give you a clear picture of why our fundraiser is so important, we would like to introduce you to some of the people we employ.
This person has a limited range of motion in their arms and legs and visual impairment. However, these challenges do not affect their work ethic. The passion they have for their job is evident in the effort they make. This individual has a developmental disability.
This person has seizures that often leave them feeling exhausted and vulnerable. However, each day they continue to persevere at their assigned tasks despite knowing that a medical situation could occur at any moment. This individual has epilepsy.
This person spent years in an institution, but they have transitioned to living in a group home in the community. They view their successful employment as a vital part of the independence they now enjoy. This individual has a developmental disability.
This person has challenges with their motor skills, balance, and vision. However, they do not let those issues deter them from staying focused. All necessary adjustments have been made to their work environment to ensure their comfort and safety. This individual had a brain tumor.
This person prefers to be up and moving around as they do their job. They tend to perform rapidly and with great intensity. They interact with others by communicating in repetitive phrases that make them feel comfortable. This individual has autism.
This person utilizes hearing aids and assistive devices to help with their mobility. Together, these appliances facilitate their participation at work and permit them to achieve a high level of productivity. This individual has a developmental disability.
This person embraces their daily assignments with tremendous enthusiasm. They are a bundle of energy, always striving for improvement. Having overcome the effects of a stroke earlier in life, they delight in having a job. This individual has Downsyndrome.
These are just a few of our extraordinary employees who are now living their best life.
Each weekday they come to work and perform their assigned duties to the best of their abilities. Having that opportunity allows them to earn a paycheck and helps them reach their full potential while providing them with a deep sense of fulfillment.
The accomplishments of our employees are the direct result of their perseverance, determination, and desire for excellence. The fact that they need assistance and support makes no difference. It does not diminish the effort they put forth or the results they achieve.
As we look toward the future, it is critically important that our nonprofit continues to offer adults with intellectual and physical challenges the chance to experience the dignity of work.
We hope you will consider making a positive difference in the lives of these deserving men and women and their families.
If you would like to support us with 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.
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.