Empowering People with Special Needs & Disabilities
The unemployment rate for individuals with disabilities is disproportionately high, leaving a large, untapped labor pool of workers who are willing to work but lack opportunities. The second part of SEA’s mission is to change that, at least here in Westport. We are committed to providing job training to workers with disabilities.
We believe that in doing so, we serve not only our neighbors with disabilities but all Westporters. In training and employing adults with disabilities, local Westport businesses will discover an untapped, dedicated and reliable workforce and will accrue benefits from improved community support. In more regular interactions with their neighbors with disabilities, all Westporters can better appreciate and embrace our vibrant and diverse community.
SEA works with its partners, The Granola Bar Hospitality Group (TGBH), at Old Mill Grocery & Deli to educate the community of Westport about the enormous challenges people with disabilities face in finding employment and the benefits that accrue to businesses that hire them. SEA collaborates with TGBH to use the Old Mill Grocery & Deli to provide life skills education, practical workplace training, leading to employment opportunities for adults with disabilities as described in detail below.
80% of adults with emotional, intellectual, developmental, and physical disabilities are unemployed or underemployed.
Individuals with disabilities are far more likely to be unemployed than people without disabilities, and those with disabilities who are employed are paid at a lower rate than nondisabled workers. An article published by The Center for American Progress titled, “A Fair Shot for Workers with Disabilities,” clearly identifies the hurdles those with disabilities face related to employment:
“Disability can be both a cause and consequence of economic insecurity. It is a cause because disability or illness can lead to job loss and reduced earnings, barriers to education and skills development, significant additional expenses, and many other challenges that can lead to economic hardship. It can also be a consequence because poverty and economic insecurity can limit access to health care and preventive services and increase the likelihood that a person lives and works in an environment that may adversely affect health. As a result, poverty and disability go hand in hand.
Yet the intersection of disability and poverty is too rarely discussed. In fact, despite the fact that 1 in 5 Americans live with disabilities, the U.S. Census Bureau’s annual report detailing income, poverty, and health insurance coverage did not even include poverty rates for people with disabilities until recently. It does now, and the most recent available data put the poverty rate for working-aged people with disabilities at 34.5 percent in 2013, compared with 12.2 percent for those without disabilities.
Employment is obviously a big piece of the puzzle. While some people live with significant disabilities and severe health conditions that preclude employment, millions of individuals can and do work despite their disabilities.”
Educating the Community
In order to tackle the problem of those with disabilities being underemployed, SEA is focused on educating the community of Westport about the problems adults with disabilities face in procuring employment and the many benefits that accrue to employers who hire them. The organization will use its staff and volunteers to educate the community, using SEA’s own lived experiences as case studies for how other employers can access, and benefit from, this severely underutilized talent pool. SEA’s hope is that, by educating the public about the employment problems for those with disabilities, and the many opportunities employing those with disabilities offer, the community will be inspired to contribute to the cause and/or provide employment opportunities to those with disabilities in their own businesses or workplaces.
Job Training and Life Skills Education for Adults with Disabilities
In addition to educating the community, SEA intends to provide practical, paid workplace training opportunities, and life skills education, to adults with disabilities to enhance their long-term employability by other organizations. Adults with a disability as defined under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) would be eligible to be considered for paid, workplace training.
Through OMG&D and in other locations around Westport, SEA and its volunteers will offer hands-on management and staff education and training in retail sales, service, and hospitality. SEA believes this education and training will allow its workers with disabilities to use the skills they acquire as a result of the paid, on-the-job training to acquire stable, long-term employment within the community of Westport or other places convenient for them.