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.

posted by AtWork! at


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