Pew Research Center shared that 12.6% of the country has a disability. Despite the wide-reaching and wide-ranging population, BestBuddies revealed that “An estimated 85% of adults (18+) with developmental disabilities do not have a paid job in the community”. Fortunately, programs, organizations, and advocates have been working to rectify this startling statistic and create more inclusive environments in the workforce. Many employers may already be working with Intellectual or Developmental Disabilities (IDD) adults, and many may wonder where to begin. Fortunately, this article will highlight the most common and top jobs for people with IDD.
The Animal Field
Taking dogs for walks or cleaning out horse stables are just two examples of employment that IDD adults might enjoy. In addition, the IDD community collaborating with the animal community can create endless employment opportunities.
This is already happening in Bethesda, MD, at Building 49 Central Animal Facility. For over a decade, the NEI-led animal facility has been implementing a program “for employing people with intellectual and developmental disabilities”.
Robert Weichbrod, the chief of animal program administration at NEI, put it perfectly by explaining, “We want to get the word out that people with IDD continue to be an underutilized resource who can markedly improve your workforce”.
Process or Production Work
Weichbrod truly hit the nail on the head. But unfortunately, IDD adults continue to be overlooked when the community has much to offer.
Due to its routine and structure, process or production work attracts many IDD adults. From packing products to housekeeping, many jobs would be fantastic opportunities for individuals with disabilities. This is to demonstrate their strength and grow their skill and independence.
An office assistant fits an IDD adult who enjoys showing off their organizational skills with a side of the personality. However, opening up the mind and thinking process is the key to creating more opportunities.
SHRM‘s feature showcased the vast job opportunities that IDD individuals have been thriving in. For example, the director of the Institute for Community Inclusion at the University of Massachusetts in Boston, William Kiernan, stated, “We’ve moved away from the concept that people with these disabilities are only suited to dishwashing, cleaning, and that sort of thing. At our institute, we have a couple of folks with intellectual disabilities who are doing data collection for us”. This innovative and inclusive mindset will help employers create successful opportunities for the IDD community.
Culinary and Restaurant Jobs
Being in the kitchen or restaurant field isn’t for everyone. However, some people, especially IDD individuals, love it. On top of that, the National Restaurant Association‘s 2022 State of the Restaurant Industry report revealed that 78% of the participants shared “that their restaurant does not have enough employees to support customer demand”. So there are endless benefits to turning to this incredible “untapped workforce”.
Maryland’s Sunflower Bakery is one of the many examples of establishments with the mission of equipping and supporting IDD individuals through their pathway to employment.
Another excellent example of IDD adults thriving in the culinary work field is at Chip Byers’ franchise of Rita’s Italian Ice & Frozen Custard, located in Florida. Byers, an autistic individual himself, understood all too well how it felt to get turned down for job after job. Byer’s shared, “When we opened, I said, ‘I’m going to give opportunities to people like myself who have been told they can’t work because I know they can’”. When Byers opened up about his franchise and thought process, at the time, more than half of his team’s employees had a disability.
Byers reiterated that his decisions are not charity, and he is simply hiring “good, competent people”.
Horticulture and Gardening Work
Gardening and working with horticulture can be therapeutic, but it also is a staple of the economy. Residential and commercial landscaping, public gardens and parks, farmer’s markets, and greenhouses are just a few of the many opportunities IDD adults could potentially pursue.
G.R.O.W.E.R.S. Inc is a leader in this field. As the establishment’s mission states, “G.R.O.W.E.R.S. Inc believes in a multi-path approach to providing horticultural education, employment opportunities, and therapy for adults with developmental and physical disabilities”.
Smile Farms Inc. is another phenomenal example. Jodi Taggart, Smile Farms Senior Director, explained to Garden Center, “The need was great for [people with disabilities] to have any kind of employment, and it made sense to do it in horticulture because it’s so rewarding”.
Taggart added, “This population can work and want to be productive. They’re great employees, so everybody wins. It helps the community because we’re engaging people who want to contribute and do a good job”. The historical absence of IDD individuals in the workforce was amiss for many reasons. However, as many have pointed out, they are a population of people who are eager to work and, in addition, have a good work ethic.
Designer and Artist Work
Accessibility and inclusion shouldn’t only pertain to certain areas of life. People with disabilities have unfairly been denied the opportunities that so many others often take for granted. Like many other things in life, much of the IDD community identify as artists.
Although it is a hobby for some, others may want to pursue a career path down a more creative avenue. The National Endowment for the Arts has been an innovative leader in this department. As part of their mission, “The Arts Endowment seeks to address barriers and advance training and career opportunities in the arts for individuals with disabilities– in the strong belief that inclusion must be ever present in our vision and that all Americans have the opportunity to create and participate fully in the arts”. With data, leaders, innovators, and a high need, now, more than ever, employers must invite IDD employees into the workforce. Venture Foundation is here to help Venture Together in this effort.