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.