Tuesday, February 22, 2011

What Makes AtWork! Innovative?

AtWork!’s mission is to help people with disabilities be productive, integrated and contributing members of their communities. We are a highly supportive and innovative conduit between workers with disabilities and mainstream employers creating mutually beneficial work relationships by designing customized jobs and providing ongoing support. We help people with disabilities discover their talents and find their unique skills. We believe everyone has the capacity to work in our communities and really should be given the opportunity to do so. For us it’s more than working, it’s a cause; it’s a movement, an equal rights movement.

While many organizations that support people with disabilities have embraced the “inclusion movement”, AtWork! has done so in a unique and innovative way. Our board and leadership staff has made a commitment to “leave no one behind”. Leaving no one behind means that we are working to find good jobs for people who are typically deemed unemployable by society, government funding agencies, and sometimes their own family members. Most people can’t imagine what a person with an intellectual disability combined with physical limitations and communication barriers could possibly do for a living. That’s where AtWork!’s innovation really makes a difference. Partnering with local businesses and nonprofit agencies, AtWork! has developed community opportunities for volunteering and work trials. These opportunities help us discover true skills and talents. Then we find an employer who cares about that talent. We have found a job for an individual who loves dogs. He throws balls to exercise the dogs at local kennel. We have found a job for a person who is a meticulous duster/cleaner. He cleans all the woodworking and molding at a large high rise condo tower. Some people can do one thing really well, like shred paper or clean tables. Employers in Issaquah and the greater eastside have discovered that employing a person with disabilities not only gets the job done consistently, it opens up a whole new world of diversity in the workplace. It brings new markets because the public patronizes businesses who care about and support people with disabilities.

AtWork! has traditionally operated a sheltered workshop in Issaquah. Staying true to our commitment of leaving no one behind, we have moved away from that model of service. We are truly innovative social entrepreneurs. We operate 4 lines of business “powered by AtWork!”: landscaping, recycling, packaging/assembly and document management. Our landscaping and document management businesses are moving to our Issaquah campus in January 2011. Our document management business is a unique partnership with USArchive and Imaging Services. We have joined forces with a for-profit business to create USArchive Powered by AtWork!. Our social enterprises earn money for our mission and they provide opportunities for the people we serve to try a variety of jobs. We are currently developing new training and trial work programs within our businesses that will do a better job of short term and long term preparation for jobs in local community businesses.

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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

What WILL You Do? – Campaign Invites Youth with Disabilities to Share Their Career Aspirations

At work, it’s what people can do that matters. Young people with disabilities have the power to decide their own limits, can work in a wide variety of jobs, and play an important role in America’s economy. And today more than ever, businesses need people who can think differently about how to solve problems and get the job done. People with disabilities do this in America’s workplaces every day – so young people should set their sights high!

Now, youth with disabilities can share their talents, abilities and career aspirations by being a part of the What Can YOU Do? public education campaign.

The Campaign for Disability Employment, a newly-formed collaborative of leading disability and business organizations, has launched What Can YOU Do?, a national effort designed to promote the hiring, retention and advancement of people with disabilities and dispel negative stereotypes about disability and employment.

Youth with disabilities are encouraged to become part of the Campaign’s efforts by sharing information about their career goals and aspirations. Using the interactive micro-blog feature on the Campaign’s Web site, www.whatcanyoudocampaign.org, youth with disabilities can get involved and share what they “will do” at work. Because, at work, it’s what people can do that matters.

The site provides the opportunity to learn about job training, career planning and internship and mentoring opportunities, as well as grassroots tools and tangible ideas for supporting the Campaign’s goals. It also features video public service announcements (PSAs) that challenge assumptions about people with disabilities and employment. Included in the video library is the Campaign’s flagship “I Can” PSA, intended for nationwide television broadcast, and "Meet Sue," winner of the What Can YOU Do? Video Contest, which invited aspiring filmmakers to produce their own videos in support of the Campaign’s goals.

The Campaign for Disability Employment seeks to promote positive employment outcomes for people with disabilities by encouraging employers, and others, to recognize the value and talent that people with disabilities bring to the workplace, as well as the dividend to be realized by fully including people with disabilities at work. The Campaign is a collaborative effort between the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD); National Business and Disability Council (NBDC); National Council of La Raza (NCLR); National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC); Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM); Special Olympics (SO); and the U.S. Business Leadership Network (USBLN). The Campaign is funded by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP), receives technical assistance from the Job Accommodation Network (JAN) and is supported by the Disability Policy Research Center (DPRC) at West Virginia University. For more information, visit www.whatcanyoudocampaign.org.

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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

What can YOU do to advance the employment of people with disabilities?

Because myths and stereotypes about disability employment continue to create barriers to opportunities for qualified people with disabilities, the Campaign for Disability Employment launched “What can YOU do?” (WCYD) – an initiative to encourage everyone to elevate perceptions about what people with disabilities CAN do on the job and to emphasize the value and talent people with disabilities add to businesses and organizations. A key part of the WCYD initiative is the “I Can” public service announcement (PSA), a montage of seven people with disabilities – some apparent and some not – sharing what they CAN do on the job when given the opportunity. “I Can” reflects the diversity of skills people with disabilities offer, challenges common misconceptions about disability and employment and reminds everyone that at work, it’s what people CAN do that matters. Click the photo of Patty above to see the video. Share it with everyone you know!

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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

What Can FAMILY & EDUCATORS Do? – Campaign Reminds Youth Influencers to Encourage Youth with Disabilities to Dream Big

Family and educators play a critical role in the expectations young people with disabilities develop for themselves. It is essential that they strengthen these expectations by instilling an early love of learning and cultivating a clear vision of work and community participation. Now, youth influencers – such as parents, teachers, coaches and clergy – can learn more about their role in the lives of youth with disabilities through a new Web site and public education campaign.

The Campaign for Disability Employment, a newly-formed collaborative of leading disability and business organizations, has launched What Can YOU Do?, a national effort designed to promote the hiring, retention and advancement of people with disabilities and dispel negative stereotypes about disability and employment.

It’s easy for families, educators, young people with disabilities and others to participate in the Campaign and drive positive change. For example, the Web site www.whatcanyoudocampaign.org offers users the chance to learn, express their commitment to disability employment efforts and share their employment experiences. An interactive micro-blogging feature on the site encourages youth with disabilities to share what they “will do” at work, and enables families and educators to easily forward the informative Campaign Web site to young people with disabilities to encourage them to get involved.

The site also features grassroots tools and tangible ideas for supporting the Campaign’s goals, as well as video public service announcements (PSAs) that challenge assumptions about people with disabilities and employment. Included in the video library is the Campaign’s flagship “I Can” PSA, intended for nationwide television broadcast, and "Meet Sue," winner of the What Can YOU Do? Video Contest, which invited aspiring filmmakers to produce their own videos in support of the Campaign’s goals.

The Campaign for Disability Employment seeks to promote positive employment outcomes for people with disabilities by encouraging employers, and others, to recognize the value and talent that people with disabilities bring to the workplace, as well as the dividend to be realized by fully including people with disabilities at work. The Campaign is a collaborative effort between the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD); National Business and Disability Council (NBDC); National Council of La Raza (NCLR); National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC); Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM); Special Olympics (SO); and the U.S. Business Leadership Network (USBLN). The Campaign is funded by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP), receives technical assistance from the Job Accommodation Network (JAN) and is supported by the Disability Policy Research Center (DPRC) at West Virginia University. For more information, visit www.whatcanyoudocampaign.org.

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