Tuesday, May 10, 2011

AtWork! Works To Create A New Model Of Service Delivery

For decades people with disabilities have been denied access to real jobs, working for free in institutions or for sub-minimum wages in sheltered workshops. We failed to recognize the true contributions people with disabilities can make when given equal opportunity to do so. We did not understand that the desire to contribute exists in all of us.

Today, disability remains the best predictor of poverty. Our purpose is to change that reality. AtWork! changes a life of "being needy" to a life of being needed and valued. Jobs are a way out of poverty and isolation and make disability a predictor of a good and fulfilling life.

For the last 5 years AtWork! has worked to create a new model of service delivery that addresses our mission in a bold new way. Today, we are all about jobs and equal opportunity.

Jobs dramatically change people with disabilities. "Challenging" and "unacceptable" behaviors disappear, people who rarely or never speak engage others, pride replaces low self esteem, and respectability overcomes stigmatization.

As we do a better job of helping each generation of students with disabilities leave school with a job, younger families will have new hope and will firmly believe that regardless of the severity of the disability, work is a real possibility. Parents will start thinking about their children with disabilities differently - or rather the same - the same as they think about their other children; expecting that their sons and daughters will have a rewarding adult life lived outside the family home, working in the community, and enjoying full reciprocity in their relationships and activities. Parents like Helima will no longer need to worry as much about what the future holds.

As more people with disabilities work and we create diverse workplaces, society changes its views and begins to value its citizens with disabilities.

Diverse workplaces ensure economic vitality and long-term stability. We hope that more businesses will decide to capture the human and financial benefits of customized employment. We hope that all workplace cultures embrace the attitudes and values that employees with disabilities have proven to foster: teamwork, respect, courage, loyalty, pride, happiness, compassion, satisfaction.

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