On this the last day we publish this blog in March, we continue to celebrate National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. We recognize the contributions of individuals with disabilities to the social and economic well-being of our communities.
The theme for 2015 is “Reveal the Faces of Intellectual and Developmental Disability.” Our goal has been to raise awareness about people with intellectual and other developmental disabilities and to personalize the narrative of these individuals.
Although many individuals with disabilities wan to work, they face additional hurdles. They must convince employers that they value employment, have an attitude and skills that many companies complain they can’t find in young workers.
In February 2015, the unemployment rate for people with disabilities is 11.2 percent, double the rate of 5.6 percent for people without disabilities. The labor participation rate for people with disabilities is a paltry 19.8 percent, less than one-third of the 68.2 percent rate for people without disabilities. People with disabilities are twice as likely to live in poverty as people without disabilities.
Most of the individuals with developmental disabilities who join Goodwill’s programs, have limited work experience and communication skills. Participants first receive prevocational services and the opportunity to explore different work paths as volunteers. They receive training and support from Goodwill’s Job Coaches on-site. Then they are prepared to interview for a paid job.
Only two months after JCPenney hired Elaine and Alfredo, the two Goodwill participants we featured in our last blog post, the company hired two more individuals from the same Goodwill program. Meet Carmen and Javon:
Carmen Salamea, a thirty-six year-old Hispanic woman who lives in College Point, Queens, joined the Goodwill Prevocational program in November 2011. There she gained work skills in Goodwill’s Work Center. Later, she was referred to Goodwill’s Supported Employment Program where staff placed her as a stock person in The Children’s Place clothing store. When she lost a relative in her native Ecuador, she and her family traveled back home and spent two months there. Unfortunately, she lost her job and when she returned to New York City, she had to be referred for brief counseling to help her cope with depression due to her loss.
A few months later, Carmen was ready to work. She was hired at the brand-new JCPenney store in the Queens Center Mall on November 2014. Carmen’s first day at work was Black Friday. She handled the chaos of one of the busiest retail days of the year like a trooper!
Javon Gardner, a thirty year-old African American Far Rockaway resident, lives with his mother and youngest brother. Friends and Goodwill staff say that he is sociable, dependable, charismatic, and well liked by fellow church members where he sings in the choir.
Although sadden by the recent loss of his father, with whom he had a deep connection, he continues to work. In 2006 Javon used to work assisting his father packing and labeling meat packages at Walbaum’s Supermarket.
Javon came to Goodwill’s Prevocational Services in October 2009 where he worked at the Work Center. Later when he joined Goodwill’s Project Discovery, he volunteered at Queens Central Library in Jamaica Queens, Methodist Missionary Church Food Pantry in Far Rockaway, Safe Horizon in Manhattan, Bethesda Baptist Church in Jamaica Queens, Marshall’s and Dr. Jays sport shop.
Javon began working part-time at JCPenny’s Home Department on November 28, 2014 – the peek of the Holiday season!
Job Coach Anna Li notes that Javon is very talkative and performs his job with minimal direction. Javon offers outstanding service to customers, diligently providing assistance and checking prices at the cash register on his own.
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