Intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) can present multiple challenges for individuals. People with IDDs can have difficulty finding appropriate housing, health care, and even employment. The Workforce Investment Act has joined with the Americans with Disabilities Act to promote employment of individuals with IDDs. However, statistically, these individuals still have lower wages, report fewer working hours, and are generally underemployed compared to their peers without IDDs.
John Butterworth, Ph.D., a Senior Research Associate at the Institute for Community Inclusion at the University of Massachusetts, recently led a study that was targeted at employers, rather than prospective employees, in an effort to increase the overall employment status of individuals with IDDs. Butterworth instituted a training program for recruiters and consultants who aided potential employees with IDDs. The program was designed to teach consultants about the value of IDD employees and give them information pertaining to the needs of these prospects. Support and follow-up through the transition period were key elements of the training delivered to the 84 consultants.
In the 1 year after the training, the rate of employment placements increased more than three-fold. Additionally, the pay rate of the employees with IDDs increased by approximately $1.00 per hour, and the employees worked approximately 6 hours more per week than those placed by other consultants. These results underscore the importance of specialized training for professionals charged with assisting individuals with IDDs in finding gainful and meaningful employment. Although not all of the consultants reported increases in employment and wages, most did. This could be due to the level of support received by the consultants’ corporations and the compliance of the prospective employees. Regardless, this approach, which targets employers rather than employees, demonstrates that everyone working with IDD clients needs to be aware of and sensitive to their needs in order to provide the most beneficial working environment for all involved. Butterworth added, “More needs to be done, however, to ensure that employment programs and their employment consultants are familiar with and use state-of-the-art job-development practices when they assist job seekers with IDD.”
Butterworth, J., Migliore, A., Nord, D. (2012). Improving the employment outcomes of job seekers with intellectual and developmental disabilities: A training and mentoring intervention for employment consultants. Journal of Rehabilitation 78.2, 20-29.
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