People with Disabilities Eager to Hold Jobs and Become Taxpayers

You may not hear such a request made often, but thousands of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are eager to become taxpayers.

Gov Patrick bill signing
Studies show that that people with I/DD are among the most reliable and conscientious workers.  In Massachusetts, Governor Deval Patrick has sitting on his desk a recommendation from The Arc of Massachusetts, ADDP, and DDS entitled Blueprint for Success: Employing Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities in Massachusetts . If this initiative is funded by the Governor in his House Two fiscal year 2015 budget recommendation, it will assist in moving people with developmental disabilities into Community-Based Day Supports and Supported Employment programs offering them an opportunity to earn more wages and become taxpayers, just like Robert whose story follows.
Robert holds two competitive jobs
in the community

Robert has participated in programs at WORK Inc. in Dorchester, Massachusetts since 1997, primarily working in the organization's production area that manufactures medical vinyl bags for Veteran's Hospitals. For 16 years, he has been paid a piece rate based on his production at the sheltered workshop.  


Robert's case manager encouraged him to change because he felt Robert was capable of more.


With the help of a career development specialist at WORK Inc., Robert secured a competitive job in the community working 15 - 20 hours a week in 2008. He completes morning prep at Olive Garden.  


Robert said he likes Olive Garden because "...they treat me like a family and understand me."   


Even though Robert was gainfully employed at Olive Garden, he continued to work 5 - 10 hours a week in the sheltered workshop on his days off because he needed somewhere to be during the day. 


Robert at Olive Garden

However, with the push of Employment First, WORK Inc. began a process of phasing out sub-contract work. This policy establishes that individualized, integrated employment is the preferred service option and outcome for working age adults served by DDS.


Closure meant that Robert would no longer be able to work at the sheltered workshop on his days off, which made him anxious.                                                              Soon after Robert heard the news, he requested help to search for a second job. With the assistance of his career development specialist, Robert was able to secure another job at a Stop & Shop, earning minimum wage - unlike his previous sheltered,  piece rate job.


"[It] makes me feel good that I have two jobs. ... I feel really happy," said Robert.


Robert represents one of the many individuals with developmental disabilities who have proven that people with disabilities can successfully work in the community and contribute to society, just as persons without disabilities. As in Robert's case, many individuals who transition out of sheltered workshops need assistance and support to relieve fears of the unknown and to guide them through a discovery process to uncover hidden interests and talents.


To establish an environment where adults with disabilities can achieve community inclusion through full participation in the competitive workforce, the state must invest in systems change. As outlined in Blueprint for Success: Employing Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities in Massachusetts, $11.1 million is needed in fiscal year 2015 to start moving individuals served by DDS into more integrated settings, including Supported Employment and/or Community-Based Day Supports.