Some of you may have heard of #ImInToHire. For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about you can click here. Basically, Best Buddies is working on a program to get employers to pledge to hire people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD.) When I first heard of this I thought it sounded like a great idea, but now it has become a lot more important to me. Why?
Because I made a new friend this weekend and her name is Annemarie and she is awesome and inspiring and an amazing writer. And she has Down Syndrome. I spent the whole day with her Saturday working on her speech for the Best Buddies Ambassador Program, where the Buddies learn public speaking so that they can help raise awareness for people with IDD by speaking at and attending events. In essence to be an Ambassador for the program. Hence the name…anyway…
I have written previously about another experience with Best Buddies that you can read here. But today I want to really focus on just how much we as a society are missing when we don’t see all of the positive contributions that people with IDD can add to this world. Part of the problem is that many of us don’t have any regular interactions with people like Annemarie. Because 85% of people with developmental disabilities do not have a paid community job. Let’s think about that for a moment. 85%. And that is not because they are lazy or not looking. I spoke to one very smart and articulate man who has been actively searching for a job for over a year.
Do you know what Annemarie said was one of her biggest goals in life? Independence. She wants to be able to be a part of the community just like the rest of us. Who provides a service and gets paid for her work. But it’s difficult, because when a person with Down Syndrome or Autism or Cerebral Palsy goes in for an interview, they are competing against people who don’t have a disability. Even if they are completely capable of doing that job, they are at an automatic disadvantage. Maybe their speech is a little difficult to understand, or they don’t make eye contact the way others do, or they just look different. And the person doing the interview thinks, well, it would just be easier to hire the person without an IDD. It’s not automatic for most people, we need to make an active effort at inclusion.
That is what is so cool about the I’m In To Hire program. Employers pledge to try and find job opportunities that would be appropriate for individuals with IDD. One of the speeches I heard on Saturday was from a young man who works at a gym. He said that he greets people and folds towels and that every day he feels proud because his friends can see him working. He is really happy to have that job, it makes him feel accepted and like he is a full member of the community. Helping someone find self confidence and pride in themselves is an amazing thing.
That gym employer could have chosen to hire a college student without IDD who maybe was doing this for a side job and didn’t really care too much about it. But instead they hired an intelligent, friendly, outgoing young man who happens to have a disability. And that job gives meaning to his life in a very profound way.
So if you have a company, maybe spend a minute thinking about what positions you have that would be well suited to someone with IDD. And then perhaps reach out to an organization like Best Buddies and ask them to recommend a few candidates who are looking for jobs in your area and would be a good fit for your needs. Or talk to your HR department and see if you can help facilitate the program at your workplace.
People with IDD are just that, people. With individual hopes and dreams, and so much to offer to this world. Please join with me in trying to help make our society one that welcomes them and their unique abilities and enthusiasm. And Annemarie, when you graduate if you are looking for a job, I’m hoping Mommies In Need will grow to the point that I can bring you or someone like you on to help. Because I can say loudly and with great pride that I’m In To Hire!