Call me an optimist if you must. I prefer to think of myself as an optimistic realist.
I recent wrote an article for Respectability entitled “Turning Crisis Into Opportunity” which offers some glimmers of hope around employment for people with disabilities. I begin by acknowledging the challenges: “It has been said that ‘A crisis is a terrible thing to waste.’ The COVID pandemic has certainly posed tremendous vocational challenges for people with disabilities, who, despite already experiencing an employment rate less than half of people without disabilities, experienced 40% greater job loss with minimal recovery. It has also provided unprecedented opportunities—to develop skills, to continue working from home and in person (for those who currently have jobs) and to think creatively about new opportunities.”
I then note that many people with disabilities and organizations working with them have responded swiftly and creatively. Participants and families in our National Ramah Tikvah Network vocational training programs, located in our 10 Ramah camps in the US and Canada, expressed concerns about social isolation and job skills. In response, we swiftly created TikvahNet, a vocational training and socialization program. We have run two cycles of programming thusfar and are about to launch our 3rd cycle tomorrow evening. In this new cycle, we will continue our vocational training and socializing while also be hearing from model employers in the area of disabilities employment.
This week (tomorrow, Jan 19th), my friend and colleague, Bill Morris of Blue Star Recyclers—with 3 computer and electronic recycling locations in Colorado and one in Chicago—will be participating in) our TikvahNet Tuesday Speaker Series. It will be broadcast on Facebook Live from 735-8 pm ET
We will be showcasing 4 employers which are committed to employing people with disabilities. In the case of Blue Star, people with disabilities are the “secret ingredient” in the success of the business! They have learned that some people with autism can stick with a repetitive task for incredibly long periods of time—in doing so, they are solving a society problem of what to do with old computers, as well as the problem of how to retain workers in this industry with high turnover.
As readers and colleagues know, I am passionate about identifying businesses large and small which train and hire people with disabilities. In my RespectAbility article, I mention two businesses started by Ramah Tikvah participants—Shred Support and Truly Scrumptious by Alexa. My website has a list in progress of all types of businesses across the US which employ people with disabilities. I am learning about new businesses by the day and can’t wait for COVID to end so I can get on the road and see more! Please continue to send more my way! Just yesterday, I learned two cool places in Colorado:
Jackie’s Bar and Grill and Steamer’s Coffee House (Arvada) https://steamerscoffeeshop.com/
Joy House Project (Longmont and Estes Park) https://www.joyhouseproject.com/the-joy