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!