Thursday, February 25, 2010

A Good Community Is a Place Where More & More People Say, “I can get what I need to make my contribution.”

More community settings cultivate encouragement where people help people see their abilities. They hold high, positive expectations that people will find ways to contribute, they support people to stretch a bit outside their comfort zone. People in a community are willing to make adjustments, to modify environments, procedures or routines to make it possible for everyone to participate more effectively. When people need personal assistance they have it in a way that doesn’t take away from their dignity or diminish their participation. They honor people’s preferences about who they want to assist them and what their preferences are.

When people with disabilities hold down a job, good employers expect as much from those employees as they do from the rest of their workforce. They understand that each person has their own way of completing their responsibilities and make adjustments or modify environments so that the person with a disability can be accountable for their work. They encourage and evaluate all of their employees, including those with disabilities and are willing to give them more challenging assignments that allow the person with a disability to grow in their job and within their chosen vocation. At all times they respect the person’s choices, knowing that their employee has the capacity and the capabilities needed to excel.

We invite you to welcome, encourage and assist others to join in and contribute.

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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

AtWork! staff appointed to Regional Transit Task Force

King County Executive Dow Constantine has named 28 regional and community leaders to a new Regional Transit Task Force that will advise on the future of King County Metro Transit services. Jane Kuechle, Chief Development Officer for AtWork! and a member of Metro’s Transit Advisory Committee, was asked to serve representing Accessible Services. “I am please to be able to give voice to issues and concerns of people with disabilities and the elderly who make use of ACCESS transportation as well as METRO, Sound Transit and other forms of public transportation,” said Kuechle.

“I’ve asked this cross-section of regional leaders and transit users to engage in a discussion about how we can best deliver transit service for all parts of the county within the resources we have,” said Executive Constantine. “I deliberately sought a group of people who are willing to put aside political divisions and think creatively about how to plan a transit system that will serve us well in the future.”

Constantine said the conversation will include development of a comprehensive vision for what the regional transit system should look like in the future as well as criteria for systematically growing or reducing the transit system, depending on the revenues available. Kuechle said she welcomes input from the public regarding accessible transportation services. The geographically balanced 28-member task force includes a mix of elected officials and representatives of business, labor, education, and human service agencies, along with riders.

“Our goal was to pull together a task force that was diverse and represented the broad perspectives across our county—from students to elderly people, from business to labor, from Seattle to Maple Valley, and more,” said Metropolitan King County Councilmember Larry Phillips, sponsor of the motion creating the panel. “The Regional Transit Task Force is charged with developing a regional vision to shape our transit system for the future and address the revenue shortfalls Metro faces. I think these individuals, with input from the larger community, are up to that task.”

The task force is being asked to develop policy options for discussion by July and to adopt final policy recommendations by September 2010.

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Thursday, February 18, 2010

A Good Community Is a Place Where More & More People Say, "I Make A Difference Because of What I Offer."

Community members give practical help in figuring out how to match the person’s capacities to work that needs doing and assuring that person can see how they make a difference to the whole effort. Information and knowledge are shared and they open clear ways that people can contribute ideas to the way things are done. Community members facilitate connections to networks and associations. They encourage people to recruit, support and build alliances. They offer opportunities for people to be well-informed ambassadors of the effort.

Good community networkers look around and discover ways that people with disabilities can contribute. They seize on opportunities and connect those who want to work with those who are looking for workers. They think outside the box and don’t just assume that if a person’s skills and talents match only part of a job that there is not a place for them. Sometimes workers with disabilities change a workplace for the better simply by their presence, even if their contribution appears small when measured against an employee who can do everything. Workers with disability bring a new diversity to the community....a presence that does not instill weariness....rather one that inspires us all to be courageous and find new ways to work together.

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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A Good Community Is a Place Where More & More People Say….

“I belong to this place and I act from responsibility for it.” In a good community more people can say, “My contribution is welcome and so am I.” There are more community settings that cultivate invitations to participate. Community members spend time listening to people in places where they are comfortable, discovering what they care about and what their capacities are. People reach out to ask clearly for active involvement. Community members are thoughtful about the ways people are welcomed and purposeful about greeting and involving newcomers. They also give thought to making their community accessible.

Community members can see how to contribute. They assist people to see a pathway that connects where they are now with a way of being involved. They think through the work to assure that there is something meaningful for each interested person to do. And they offer support so people understand how to be a part of things, both the tasks and the social dimension.

Good communities reach out and invite people with disabilities to participate, community members listen to discover what people with disabilities are good at and help them to find something to do that is meaningful for the person with a disability and for the community as a whole. They help the person with a disability be able to say, “My contribution is welcome and so am I.”

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Thursday, February 11, 2010

For Some Jobs, Asperger's Syndrome Can Be An Asset

by Adriene Hill

February 11, 2010 NPR Morning Edition

Statistics on the unemployed have been dominating the news for months.
And while the current portrait of the jobless might seem dire, consider this: According to new data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, less than 20 percent of the disabled population in the country has work.

But Aspiritech, a nonprofit in the suburbs of Chicago, is trying to help improve the job outlook for people with Asperger's and high-functioning autism.
The company trains people in data entry and computer program testing — skills that come naturally to many with the disorder.

Important Work
Brian Tozzo is making sure programs like Yahoo Messenger and AOL interact properly with a cell phone. He types a message into his phone and pushes send.
"There it is — 'Hello, how are you?' " Tozzo says. "And on the PC you can see the same message, 'Hello, how are you?' and it passes, hooray!" Tozzo marks it down as a success in a spreadsheet that has hundreds, even thousands of repetitive tests.

At a different desk, Alan Sun is training with a similar list. "It definitely helps utilize my computer skills and lets me use them to help others," Sun says. "So, at least I'm seeing how my computer skills can be potentially useful to society."
Brenda Weitzberg, the founder of Aspiritech, says employment is so much more than a paycheck. "It is structure to the day," she says. "It is sense of self-worth, value." Employment is so much more than a paycheck. 'It is structure to the day. It is sense of self-worth, value.' - Brenda Weitzberg, founder of Aspiritech

A Natural Fit
Weitzberg started the business because she felt frustrated with the lack of job resources for her 30-year-old son. She says software testing is the perfect fit for people like him, with autism spectrum disorder. "They're very focused on detail," Weitzberg says. "Able to do highly repetitive work, able to spot imperfections." Aspiritech is relatively new and started with $25,000 in private donations. So far, it's trained eight testers. And the company just signed its first contract for work that will start later this year. Weitzberg's inspiration is a six-year-old Danish company called Specialisterne.

Difference Not A Disadvantage
. Thorkil Sonne is the founder of Specialisterne. The company currently has three dozen consultants with autism spectrum disorder doing software testing and data entry. "[The company] actually sees autism — the autism characteristics — as a potential competitive advantage," Sonne says. He came up with the idea after his son was diagnosed with autism, and he says he thinks the outlook for his son has substantially improved since the company's inception. "I think that there's a much more positive attitude," Sonne says, "And openness in the business sector in Denmark."

Sonne's hoping to spread the model worldwide. Copenhagen Business School professor Robert Austin has studied Specialisterne's business. "It does something that a lot of other models that hope to help people don't do," Austin says. "It aligns the interest of the people being helped with the interest of a business." Austin says it's a hopeful model that he'd like to see work. It's one that doesn't view difference as disadvantage.

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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

JOBS ARE THE WAY OUT

PRESERVING EMPLOYMENT FOR
INDIVIDUALS WITH DEVELOPMENTAL DISABILITIES


We commend Governor Chris Gregoire for her recognition that jobs for everyone are the key to rebuilding our economic future. We applaud her leadership in issuing a policy brief Reforming How We Care For Washingtonians With Developmental Disabilities that states “people with developmental disabilities are best served in integrated community-based settings rather than in the State’s large institutions for the disabled”.

As the transition to community-based services is more fully implemented, funding to help individuals find jobs must not be reduced. The State’s own Working Age Adult Policy mandates “all individuals, of working age, regardless of the challenge of their disability, will be afforded an opportunity to pursue competitive employment”. Funding and policy must remain aligned to protect this opportunity.

Community Rehabilitation Providers (CRP’s) are the State and Counties partners in supporting persons with developmental disabilities to find and maintain employment. Yet over the past decade, vendor rate increases to CRP’s have totaled only 4.6% threatening their financial viability and ability to retain professional staff. The 3% reduction to County Employment Contracts included in the 2009-2011 Biennial Operating Budget has further weakened this vital community partnership. The Governor’s proposed additional 3% reduction to employment services in the Supplemental Budget could very well be the tipping point that puts hundreds of people with disabilities on the unemployment rolls. This is not the way to rebuild our economic future. We ask Washington State Legislators to:

Maintain Funding for Supported Employment Services

• 9,810 Washington citizens depend upon these critical community services.
• The recent Washington State Institute for Public Policy review of research studies requested by the Legislature states “supported employment was found to increase clients’ wage earnings and taxes paid, and a reduction in public costs”.
• Washington State has consistently been in the top three States nationwide with regard to success in community employment. This outstanding performance record must not be jeopardized by more budget reductions.

For more information about how you can help preserve jobs for people with disabilities and work with your legislators, please go to the Community Employment Alliance website for more information about this and other important issues.

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Thursday, February 4, 2010

E-Cycle Washington Enjoys Healthy Returns in 2009

As the Seattle Times so aptly put it in its editorial last Friday (1/29/10) “...a year-old recycling law has helped Washington residents get the lead, cadmium and mercury out of the basement, garage and closet. E-Cycle Washington is a huge success.”

For AtWork! the program has been phenomenally successful. We shipped our first semi trailer load full of electronics on February 10th of 2009, realizing $1,116.95 from that first load and the program has continued to grow. The community has recognized the value of keeping dangerous toxins out of our landfills as well as glad to find an inexpensive way to recycle electronics (try FREE). We shipped two trailers full that first month and have shipped as many as four in one month. Over this past year 103.5 tons of computers towers, laptops and monitors were collected and sent to recycling, bringing in $39,586.37 of needed revenue, income that is used to support AtWork!’s vital programs to support people with disabilities.

The state Department of Ecology reports more than 38.5 million pounds of electronics were recycled free of charge in 2009. That means AtWork! was responsible for 2.5% of that total. Not bad for a brand new program and proof that the idea has caught the enthusiasm of the public. We are a community that has embraced the mantra of “reduce, reuse and recycle”. The success of the E-Cycle program is one more indicator of our commitment to the environment and sustainability.

E-Cycle Washington is a program that provides responsible recycling of computers, monitors and TVs in our state. Electronics manufacturers have taken responsibility for recycling these products. For consumers electronics are recycling is provided free of charge at authorized collection points. AtWork! is Issaquah’s authorized collection station. The Recycle Center is at 970 7th NW, near the Safeway store. Electronics can be left for recycling between during center hours, 8 AM – 4 PM, Monday through Friday.

The Washington Materials Management & Financial Authority (WMMFA) is the manufacturer-funded group leading this effort. You can be assured that items taken to AtWork!’s recycle center are handled safely and responsibly according to WMMFA and State Department of Ecology standards. Many materials in these products can be re-used in new products conserving the resources and energy needed to recycle and reprocess. Some unwanted electronics sill work, and can will be made available secondhand to people and organizations who may not be able to afford to buy new equipment.

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Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Giving Tip #6 - Trust Your Charity

Final tip from Charity Navigator: "Giving Tip #6 - Trust your charity: After you have thoroughly vetted a charity, trust it to spend your gift appropriately. Donors who designate their donations for specific activities hamstring charities and can become a roadblock in the charity’s quest to do good work. Charities need unrestricted gifts so that they have the flexibility to respond to changing demands for their services."

We hope these last five posts on our blog have helped you to understand that AtWork! is managed by a committed board of directors and outstanding professional staff, that AtWork! pursues its mission openly and honestly and that AtWork! is engaged in work that changes lives.

Unrestricted gifts will help us to be creative. It often takes creativity and persistence to develop supports and opportunities for individuals with disabilities, especially those with complex support needs. It is not about fixing people, it is not about training people to do what we might think they should be doing, it is not about asking for conformity to our way of doing things. It is about discovering talents and skills, it is about finding ways those talents and skills can be used to benefit a business, it is about letting people choose their own destiny.

If you are moved to invest in the work we do and invest in the lives of people with disabilities, we would gratefully accept your contribution. Your gift of time, talent and treasure will change lives, create opportunity, and help those we serve find their place in our communities.

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