As professionals in the disability world, we often hear about the dismal situation for transition planning and services for adults with disabilities. Adults with disabilities have one of the highest unemployment rates of any group in the United States. In many cases, once individuals with disabilities age out of school, they spend more time alone at home than out in their communities. This is not by choice but rather because of a severe lack of services. Furthermore, there is a lack of awareness of this group’s potential for contributing to their communities. I have one friend from high school with whom I communicate every couple of weeks. I am so sad when I ask what he has been up to, and he reports that he has been watching TV all day. He is capable of so much more!
Despite the challenge of minimal positions and supports provided, another one of my friends has defied the odds and found a job that is a PERFECT fit for him! Dan Fiorentino, with whom I performed in high school, was recently celebrated in local Connecticut news for earning his first paycheck! (See the original story here.)
The job that Dan landed is the best job I could have ever imagined for him– he works in a doctor’s office and is responsible for greeting patients and escorting them to the appropriate examination room. Dan is one of the most sociable people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. When we performed in Unified Theater together in high school, we never ran out of things to talk about (especially once we got onto the topic of the Red Sox!). Dan is such a unique person because of his commitment to his friends and family, and his perseverance in learning how to do things right. I absolutely agree with the words of his mother, quoted in the original article, when she said that employers “find that people with disabilities are loyal employees and they are hard working.” What more could an employer ask for?
Disability Scoop recently reported that unemployment numbers for adults with disabilities are decreasing. (In one month, the unemployment rate dropped from 12.1% to 10.3%. You heard me– one month!) I would not be surprised if that was because of the efforts of these people and many like them across our country.
I am so impressed by Dan’s story in particular because this job plays into Dan’s unique skillset. He is not stocking shelves or taking inventory. He is not making copies. He is not standing on an assembly line. His employer, Dr. Jennifer Pennoyer, found his personal strength (connecting with people) and found a way he could use that strength to better her business’s environment. If that isn’t inclusion, I don’t know what is!
— Written by Elise Hopkins, KIT Blog Editor
Kids Included Together (KIT) is a non-profit located in San Diego, CA and Washington, DC. We help make the world a more inclusive place by providing live and online training to people who work with kids. We teach strategies, accommodations and best practices to include kids with and without disabilities in before & after school programs. Inclusive environments create stronger communities. Learn more about our work at www.KITonline.org.