Rewarding Work for Residents With Disabilities

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Finding employment is never easy, especially if you have a disability. Immediately red flags go up for many employers. They might think, "Will the person be able to keep up with the team? Do I have to spend more time not only training but also supervising them compared to employees without disabilities?" 

Here at Anchor we have had a number of success stories. No, it’s never easy, but it certainly is very rewarding when a job is secured.

Already a number of our residents volunteer at thrift stores and places like Bibles for Mission, but there is also something to be said about  a ‘real job,’ paid employment. We have had success with helping residents find volunteer work, paid work, or a combination of both.

Because each person is unique, we try to find a job that suits the person and fosters realistic expectations. In addition, job coaches help our residents search for jobs, make contacts, and provide supervision, and they check in with the employer once a week and when difficulties arise. Sometimes we approach the Ontario Ministry of Community and Social Services to provide a job coach for one of our residents. Sometimes Anchor provides a job coach because it is less cumbersome.

The first thing to remember is to start slow. Approach an employer who may be sympathetic and think about what the individual could possibly do within that business. Ask for an opportunity for a part-time position, while negotiating a reasonable wage. Perhaps the employer could hire this person as part of a training program, say two afternoons a week. As an organization, Anchor takes care of Workplace Safety and Insurance Board fees so the individual does not have to be on the payroll, because some employers worry about liability.

Other employers like McDonalds and Tim Horton's are very aware of the needs of people with disabilities, and a number of Anchor residents work at those restaurants on a part-time basis at minimum wage.

We like to point out the advantages to the employer. Employing people with disabilities provides an opportunity for service, and it may be a cost effective way to get certain jobs accomplished. Our residents tend to be faithful, steady workers who will get the job done, be it sometimes at a slower pace. Many people enjoy seeing their smiles when cleaning tables at a restaurant or stocking shelves at a grocery store.

After a hard day's work, it is good to rest. Work gives us purpose in life, provides us with new friends and new opportunities. As Christians we also understand the need for dignity and inclusion. We want to focus on abilities and the many ways individuals with disabilities can contribute to society. To read from a farmer who hired an Anchor resident, Eddie (pictured above), and was very pleased with his work, see this issue of Disability Concerns newsletter, Breaking Barriers.

Bert Van Goolen is Executive Director of Anchor Christian Homes

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  That's nice, but what about people with disabilities who have professional training? Although I've pretty much given up looking for a job, let alone a career, I have two B.A.s and the second one was in English Studies with a Major in Professional Writing in English.  Surely, not all the people with disabilities you work with have Down's Syndrome or are intellectually deficient?