By Patsy Webb, M.A.Ed.S., and Certified Employment Support Professional (CESP)
“When we all do better, we all do better.” So goes the quote attributed to former Minnesota Senator, Paul Wellstone. At Friends Life Community, we believe that everyone deserves a place to belong and everyone deserves to be included because when everyone is included, we all are truly better off.
A key focus of our Service Learning & Employment program is demystifying the hiring of adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) so that they can be included in the workforce. Being hired means they can enjoy meaningful work and connections with colleagues, and contribute their strengths and productivity to the team. But it isn’t just adults with IDD who benefit from more inclusive hiring practices; the ripple effects of inclusive employment have a much wider reach.
So, who all benefits from inclusive employment?
When any person is hired, the positive results can include finding a purpose, contributing to a collective effort, enjoying connections with coworkers, obtaining insurance, and gaining financial stability.
For a person with a disability, there are other positives. Many on the autism spectrum, for instance, can’t always find ways to naturally fit into the community like participating in sports teams and church groups. Finding a place to belong is a lifelong struggle for those who have sensory issues and social deficits.
This first ripple effect of inclusive hiring practices impacts the individual employee in that becoming an employee provides security, belonging, and value that most people take for granted.
The next ripple affects the family of the individual, who can benefit both financially and emotionally.
Relief for financial responsibilities can have a big impact on a family. Just as important is the relief that comes from knowing that the family member has a safe place to belong and contribute to the community. This decreases stress and provides comfort, as does the increased financial support.
When individuals with IDD are seen for what they have to contribute to society and seen for their abilities, the ripples continue to widen and carry over into the local neighborhood and community. When we can experience and interact with someone face-to-face, it helps to de-stigmatize and correct any preconceived ideas or fears of the “other.”
Gigi Sanders, a special needs minister at Christ Presbyterian Church in Nashville, TN, shares how inclusion makes a difference in people’s lives in her article entitled “On Sharing Life with ‘Very Special’ People.”
“What if seven years meant how long a family didn’t go to church because it was just too hard to attend with their child with special needs? This is what happened to Jack and Amy as they spent seven years being away from the church family because their child couldn’t handle the sensory input and the church wasn’t equipped to accommodate the child. It just became easier to stay home rather than continuing to advocate. This narrative is often heard from families with special needs as they try to navigate church and all the stressors that may occur with varying abled children.“
The opposite happens when a person with a disability becomes an integral, working part of the community. Feelings of dignity and value result when the community supports that person’s ability to contribute. When a person is valued, they become a part of community events and friendships develop.
Relationships are at the core of every person’s needs. The opportunities for relationships increase when everyone is seen and heard in the community.
Customers tend to value inclusive and diverse teams in their local businesses and reward them with loyalty – they see their local stores and businesses investing in people and providing a place for everyone to succeed. This is especially important during downturns in the economy.
This study from 2019 by Accenture lays out the ways that businesses benefit from inclusive hiring practices. They found, “Some companies are not taking advantage of the benefits of disability initiatives. While many are concerned about the costs of accommodating persons with disabilities, these are actually minimal and fruitful investments.”
So, who all benefits from inclusive employment? The answer is everyone. Every person, family, community, and business. And so it is that when we all do better, we all do better.
Friends Life Community is committed to creating opportunities for adults with disabilities to develop socially, grow personally, and enjoy community as they experience life together. Our Inclusive Employment Training helps local businesses discover ways that they can become inclusive employers and broaden the diversity of their teams, giving adults with IDD meaningful opportunities to contribute to the community. To learn more or schedule a training for your team, email firstname.lastname@example.org