July 10th, 2012

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Real People, Real Jobs: Success Stories of People With Disabilities

If you’re the type of person who looks for comfort in numbers, don’t visit the Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) web site today to look at the latest job statistics for people with disabilities. The unemployment rate for this population rose almost half a percentage point in June, just as it did during the previous month. This all follows an optimistic April report, when the rate dropped three points to bring it below 13 percent for the just the second time in three years. If you like reading success stories about individuals with disabilities achieving their job and career goals, on the other hand, you can find a good number of stories about people making life matter for themselves. There is one particular site, in fact, completely dedicated to telling these inspiring tales. Real People, Real Jobs is a project of the Institute for Community Inclusion (ICI) at UMASS Boston. The site provides “success stories about individuals with intellectual/developmental disabilities getting and keeping jobs” with the hope that these “individuals and their support networks [...] think creatively about employment.” Stories on the web site are categorized to point users toward resources for achieving their goals, whether they are as basic as figuring out what jobs are right for an individual to programs that aid one’s entrepreneurial ambitions. There is also a regional search that provides users with close-to-home examples of people with disabilities living and working in communities. No matter the category, each story is structured in a way that leads the reader through the steps taken to achieve the job goal and closes with a bulleted section of “Lessons Learned” that neatly lays out a blueprint others can follow. Some of the articles have accompanying video which really flesh out the story. One recent example being Lisa: Natural Supports at the YMCA, which is about a Fairfield, Connecticut woman getting a job teaching swimming lessons: It’s somewhat curious that the articles do not contain hyperlinks to most of the businesses, organizations and resource mentioned. I suppose it could be construed as a conscious choice to remain impartial; but it’s not as if they avoid naming resources, and contact information for the organization’s submitting the article is provided at the end of each story. It just seems like a missed opportunity for making content on the site easier to find by new audiences; and that’s a shame because, as the unemployment numbers indicate, people with disabilities need all the help they can get. Comments? Image by Alaina Abplanalp Photography, used under its Creative Commons license.

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