Programs Improve Employment Opportunities for People with Disabilities
November 8, 2021 (Georgia) - While finding or keeping a job during the COVID-19 pandemic has brought new challenges to those with intellectual/developmental disabilities (I/DD), the pandemic hasn’t made much of a difference in the unemployment rate for people with disabilities in the U.S.
As the pandemic continues to shift jobs from the real world to the virtual one, those with disabilities face new hurdles that limit their abilities to find or continue employment.
The Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities (GCDD) focuses on employment challenges for those with I/DD in its latest issue of Making A Difference magazine. GCDD interviews Doug Crandell, a nationally recognized expert in the area of employment for individuals with severe mental illness and I/DD. He’s also the director of the Advancing Employment Technical Assistance (TA) Center at the Institute on Human Development and Disability (IHDD) at the University of Georgia (UGA).
Crandell points to several employment barriers that many workers with disabilities still face. “If someone has been largely kept away from technology, then remote work may not fit their skill set because they haven’t had time to develop those skills,” says Crandell.
A number of organizations and initiatives across the state are tackling the problem head-on. UGA’s Advancing Employment TA Center, funded by GCDD, is one of them. Its mission is to provide training and technical assistance to communities in order to remove barriers to employment and to help workers with disabilities find jobs.
GCDD is also supporting programs across the state to give people with and without disabilities opportunities to contribute to their communities – like Project SEARCH. Project SEARCH is a business-led, high school-to-work transition program, serving students with significant I/DD. It takes place entirely at the workplace and the goal for each student participant is competitive employment.
The entrepreneurial sector is another slice of the workforce that’s beginning to open for those with disabilities. One Georgia program is getting potential business owners up to speed on all aspects of being their own boss. Synergies Work was founded four years ago by Aarti Sahgal with the goal of finding gainful employment for individuals with disabilities. Sahgal said her program had two options: “Jump in and fail or succeed.” The move to an all-virtual operation turned out to be a game changer.
Sahgal created the eight-week online i2i Entrepreneurship Program that gives individuals with disabilities with a business idea the chance to establish themselves.
Crandell sees programs such as Synergies Work as important to improving employment opportunities for people with disabilities who want to work. “We know there has to be greater education and engagement, and that remote or self-employment are good options. Maybe the pandemic brings to the forefront people living in our communities who can become taxpayers. And that’s the good news.”
About the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities: The Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities (GCDD) is the State's leader in advancing public policy on behalf of persons with developmental disabilities. Its mission is to bring about social and policy changes that promote opportunities for the wide spectrum of diverse people/persons with developmental disabilities and their families to live, learn, work, play, and worship in their communities.