We don’t have all the answers. At the same time, families have been at the front of change for many years and we if we work together we will learn to find a way to create employment opportunities for our family members.
familyWORKs has been conducting research so that we can learn and improve our success with employment. First, we investigated how families feel about the issue of a working life for their family members, we then look at what the business community says about the contribution that families can make in terms of people with intellectual disabilities working. After that we have identified what the employment service providers have said about the role that families can take when their loved ones are connected with a service provider.
What Families Think
Families attended the familyWORKs meeting on November 14th, 2009 and the participants reflected and filled out a workbook with eight questions.
First of all, the data revealed that families attended the meeting because they wanted to find out what is “out there” in terms of employment opportunities and supports for their children. Families also want to network with other families to make connections, to brainstorm, and to find out what other families are doing so that they can plan for the future for their sons & daughters.
Families also think that familyWORKs could be an advocate and be a liaison to government, business and service providers. Families also urgently want information about employment supports and opportunities now. Further, families are hoping that familyWORKs follows through in this initiative and continues in its work.
The dreams for the future for the families are that their children work and volunteer like ordinary citizens so they can be a contributing part of society. Families dream that their children will support themselves in work based on their strengths and interests: this will make our children happy and create better self-esteem. Many families already have a long-term mental vision of work for their child while some are having a hard time seeing a future of work for their child. A common theme on this question is “hope”.
Families that attended familyWORKs believe that their family members are generally motivated to work because of economic benefit and increased independence that in turn bolsters self-esteem. Morever, many families expect their family members to work and will support them in that effort.
Families thought that the physical barriers to employment for their family members with disabilities are transportation issues and un-accessible workplaces. With respect to personal challenges on the part of the worker with a disability they are low social skills, poor communication, behaviour, social fear, a lack of confidence and short attention spans. Families also identified the limited capacity of employers/community to accept their children’s differences and lower productivity. One idea is to create incentives for employers to hire our children.
Some families have not identified the potential opportunities for work for their children but other families felt that the potential opportunities for paid employment for their family members are unlimited. Families have identified a wide array of occupations for their sons and daughters: working in a restaurant, in production, in a grocery store, working in a horse barn, write, in recycling, yard-work, music and theatre, and computers. Families feel that one way to build work capacity is start by volunteering. What is essential in these dreams is a willing and understanding employer.
Most families had no exposure to employment service providers and are unable to provide an opinion on satisfaction levels. However, those that have had contact have not been successful in securing ongoing employment or are just getting started. School is seen as an important environment for employment training.
Families say they need support in the following ways: to provide a platform for family networking around the issue of work, to provide education for employers to build flexibility and tolerance, to advocate for legislation to provide incentives to employers, to increase our contacts to provide more contract work, provide communication and behavior support, guidance and assistance with thinking, and helping with connections to prospective employment.
Families say that familyWORKs is a good idea and they want us to continue and ensure that our strategies are acted upon. They felt that although they wanted more tangible information, this session was informative and helped to start them thinking. Most participants said they want to be involved and informed.
However, they want to see more information from service providers and government. It was suggested that we can be more vocal to government and business to advocate for our cause. Families appreciate the ability for networking. They also need information on resumes, cover letters, and job search.
Great ideas are job fair, accessing Community Future Small Business Incubation Model, flexible models of employment that provides a break in work, lobby, and job training.
Businesses surveyed believed that their ability to recruit and retain people with disabilities as employees would be strengthened by family involvement in the following areas:
- Disability Awareness Training for Staff
- Training on how to serve customers with disabilities.
- Consultation on advertising and messaging
- Extend existing family/friend recruitment campaigns to focus on people with disabilities
Service Provider Research:
- Skill Development prior to working such as education and training, transit training, hygiene, clothing, work gear, finances, time management is important to being successful in finding and keeping a job.
- Work experiences while young is seen as key by many sources. It was reported that it would help the clients greatly if families began to consider employment as part of their family members’ future and begin to prepare them in their early teens.
- Family building business and social enterprise as a place where their family members would work.
- Most sources thought the following areas of service could be strengthened by strategic family involvement:
- Job search – letting job developers know about personal connections to increase options.
- Resume development – helping to ensure that all relevant experiences are recorded.
- Some providers do not seek family involvement but are interested.