Helping persons with disabilities transition from high school to the work world
When Lindsay “Drew” Miller was ready to graduate from high school, he and his mom Janet struggled to find the right daytime program. Although he is visually impaired and uses a walker, Drew is always willing to try new tasks. But it wasn’t until he joined the Greater Richmond ARC that he had the chance to develop his job skills at by answering phones; assembling boxes; and shredding paper.
October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, and a time to reflect on how every individual is capable of making a contribution– large or small. But unemployment among people with disabilities remains at nearly 70 percent, according to the nonprofit SourceAmerica.
At ARC, Drew is always willing to try new tasks in the organization’s Work Force Development program. “If they can find something for me to do, they can find something for anyone,” he jokes, saying his multiple disabilities are not a barrier to doing a job well.
For students with disabilities still in high school, ARC also offers a Work Readiness program, where they gain practical knowledge and hands-on experience to successfully transition post-education. Offering a variety of choices in skill development, vocational outings, and instructional time, Work Readiness is tailored to the ARC After School participants and their individual needs, says Emily Lehmann, assistant vice president of day and residential services.
“Not everyone is seeking the same work experience,” she says, “but most people desire some degree of independence.”
Work Readiness helps participants understand the nature of employment and observe firsthand tasks such as housekeeping, cooking, automotive repair and healthcare, and include outings to restaurants, auto body shops, and hospitals.
For Drew, working is an opportunity, and an example of his “can do” spirit, says one ARC supervisor. Besides, adds Drew, “there’s never a dull moment.“
For more about all that The Greater Richmond ARC does in our community, check out the website here.