Most people would be shocked to learn that three out of every one hundred Americans have a developmental disability and that in the United States there are approximately ten million adults, teens, and children with some type of intellectual challenge.
Please stop for a moment and consider that number. Ten million.
That is more than the populations of Oklahoma, Wyoming, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Delaware, Vermont, and Rhode Island combined.
And yet a typical citizen could easily live most of their life without ever meeting a person with that particular challenge. However, it is also possible that they could come in contact with an individual who has that diagnosis - and not realize it.
People with intellectual challenges can be physically healthy with no visible signs of disability. In the right situation, you could spend a short amount of time with a person without ever knowing that their IQ was 70 or less. (That is the criteria the state of Oklahoma uses to classify a person as having a developmental disability.)
But these individuals are present in all areas of life. They go to school, they go to church, they eat at restaurants, they attend movies and they shop at the mall. They have the same interests, the same hopes and the same dreams as you and me. They want to be understood, they want to be valued and they want to be accepted.
Among the nation’s millions of people with developmental disabilities are the men and women that work at the Meadows. They are an accurate representation of all the other individuals around the country who are diagnosed with some form of intellectual challenge.
We employ adults with unspecified developmental disabilities, Down syndrome, autism, epilepsy, and individuals who have had traumatic brain injuries, strokes and brain tumors.
Each one of our employees has overcome tremendous physical and mental challenges on their road to successful employment. Through their desire to be part of the workforce, they have demonstrated courage and perseverance. They have tested themselves and discovered that they are capable of holding down a job that allows them to experience dignity and respect.
But, sadly, they have also had to struggle to have their rights upheld. They have fought against bias and judgment. Some have even faced ridicule and bullying. All because of who they are.
That is why organizations like the Meadows are so important to this population. We provide a sanctuary for individuals who would otherwise have difficulty finding employment. And one of the most important aspects of their job is the fact that it takes place in a safe and supportive environment. We not only help them develop vocational skills, we also monitor their health and safety at all times.
Our employees come to work each day, not only to earn a paycheck but also to have a purpose. Their employment is an important part of their daily life. Their sense of accomplishment, their feeling of achievement and the joy of belonging are all positive benefits that result from being employed with an organization where they are appreciated for who they are instead of for what they can do.
The millions of U.S. citizens who live with the diagnosis of an intellectual challenge are still often ignored and marginalized. In a sense, they remain invisible within society, and that is everyone’s loss.
However, because the Meadows specializes in secure data destruction, customers are welcomed into our facility to witness their confidential information being shredded. They watch our employees work, and they quickly realize that we are all far more alike than we are different.
Also, 20% of our employees go out each day into the community on our company trucks to businesses and organizations statewide to pick up material to be destroyed. Being in public gives people the chance to see what individuals with disabilities can accomplish when given the opportunity.
Ultimately, everyone benefits when we get to interact in meaningful ways with people who are more than willing to accept others for who they are and who, in return, deserve the same consideration.
That is why we believe that a significant number of the unseen millions with intellectual challenges would benefit greatly if they could be employed at an organization like the Meadows.