When your child becomes an adult, he or she will experience the end of their public school years. This is a time of great change for all young people, but people with disabilities often face greater challenges to enjoying real opportunities for further education or training and employment. It is very important that you and your child make the best of the school years to prepare for this change. If your child is still in school, please refer to Module 1 – Transition from School to Work for Youth with Disabilities.
As families, you can play an important role in assisting your child find a job (or other meaningful activities) in the community. As an advocate, your expectations for your child’s opportunities for employment will be important. There may be a number of challenges that you will have to deal with, including:
- Other people’s attitudes and beliefs that there child cannot work.
- Finding the right match between your child’s interests and skills and jobs available in the community.
- Finding the right supports or services that your child may require to find and keep a job, or to do other things in the community that will make his or her life meaningful.
There are a number of actions that you may be able to take to advocate for your child’s right to work in the community. One of the key things to remember is that there may be organizations or other people in your community who can assist your child with these issues. For example, there are government programs that specifically assist people with disabilities to find employment. Your advocacy will be greatly strengthened if you have a good understanding of the opportunities and services that exist in your community. In some communities, help may be limited and you may need to assume a more direct role to advocate to your child’s employment opportunities. Below are a few ideas and suggestions about the roles that families, community organizations and others may play.
Advocacy Roles for Families
When families are supportive of their child’s goals for work, success is more likely to occur. As you would for any of your children, you will likely want to take whatever steps possible to help your child with a disability obtain and keep a job. Here a few practical suggestions you may consider:
- Use your own contacts with family members and friends. Let them know that your son or daughter is looking for work and ask them to talk with their friends about possible job opportunities.
- Encourage your son or daughter to think about work and work opportunities.Talk with him or her early about what work means and what he or she might like to do. Start with encouraging your child to work in part-time or summer jobs as early as possible.
- If necessary, meet with employers who are willing to give your son or daughter an opportunity to work. This may involve you planning schedules or addressing problems that may occur. For example, if particular routines or habits are important, employers should know about these and how to accommodate them.
- If necessary help your son or daughter get to and from work. You will want your child to do this for him or herself but this may not always be practical or possible.
- Get in touch with local agencies that may be able to help your child find and keep a job. You may have to put pressure on an agency to help in ways you feel are important. Be respectful, but also be determined.
Roles for Community Agencies
There are a number of community agencies in New Brunswick that help people with disabilities to find employment in the community. Government funds most of these agencies. They have mandates to serve people with different types of disabilities, but this is not always the case. The Premier’s Council on the Status of Disabled Persons has a directory of services that provides a listing of employment and vocational agencies throughout New Brunswick . This list is updated regularly. Click here to be linked to the Premier’s Council’s Directory Website.
Unfortunately, not every community in New Brunswick has an agency dedicated to helping people with intellectual disabilities find and keep a job. Some communities may still only have agencies that operate sheltered workshops and industries whose services may be limited to providing activities in a centre or a single building. Some of the agencies are now more active in helping people with intellectual disabilities find work (or other meaningful activities) in the broader community. Make sure that you find out the agency’s mission and the kind of services that they offer.
Some community employment agencies in New Brunswick have had much success in assisting people with intellectual disabilities find part-time or full-time employment. These agencies usually have an excellent relationship with the businesses in their community.
Roles of the Business Community
People within your local business community can be helpful in a number of ways. Either individually, with other families, or in concert with a community agency, you may want to talk to business people in your area. You may be able to address business people in group settings by asking to speak at meetings of local chambers of commerce, boards of trade, rotary clubs or other service clubs that involve business people in your community. Here a few suggestions about how people in the business community can be supportive:
- They can open their doors to more people with disabilities when opportunities for employment arise. This may require a change in attitude about people with disabilities and a willingness to do what may be necessary to ensure that an individual has the help he or she may need to do a job.
- Business people have expertise that other people do not. They can help figure out ways in which more people can be accommodated and supported in a variety of workplaces.
- Business people can talk with other business people about their experiences with hiring people who have disabilities. They can talk about their loyal workers who have disabilities and their benefit to the business.
- Many business people, when approached, are willing to try new ways of helping people learn and do a job. Business people can be effective partners in developing new ideas and approaches.
- Business people may act “mentors” for a small business that is set up for someone who has a disability. As a mentor, a business person may be able to provide information or pointers about running a small business.
You can also use the information contained in Module 2 on employment. This module is designed for employers to assist them in hiring, training and supporting workers with an intellectual disability. You may be able to use some of the information in the module to conduct a small presentation with a group of business people.
Other Government Programs
In addition to funding community employment agencies, government offers other programs or funding to assist people with disabilities find and keep work. One program is called Training and Employment Support Services (TESS). It is designed to improve the “employability” of people with disabilities. Funding may be available for employment counselling, assistance with job training, equipment, transportation, or a job coach (a person who supports a worker with a disability on a job site), etc. The funding available through this program is usually short term. It will not provide a one-on-one support worker for someone with a disability on a job for an extended period of time.
Other government programs involve providing wage subsidies for employers that will help people with disabilities gain valuable work experience or sometimes an opportunity to show an employer what they can do. Again, these wage subsidies are not designed to provide long term or on-going subsidies for employers.
For more information about government programs, go to the website of the Department of Post Secondary Education and Training by clicking here.
Accessing Job Training
Employment training after high school is becoming increasingly important for all young people. Many jobs in our communities are requiring additional skills. The evidence is clear that people who access further education and training after high school will have a much greater chance of becoming employed.
There are still barriers that people with disabilities face when trying to access further education and training. Fortunately, many of these barriers are being addressed and more opportunities are opening up. For example, the New Brunswick community college system now provides opportunities for students with intellectual and other disabilities to take regular college courses. For students with intellectual disabilities, these programs may be modified to suit their skills and abilities. Over the last few years, many young people with intellectual and other disabilities have successfully completed programs at community college and have gone on to find employment. For more information about opportunities with people with intellectual disabilities, contact NBACL.
Other job training opportunities may also need to be explored. There may be private job training schools in your area that are willing to include and accommodate people with disabilities. Your child may be able to access funding through the government’s TESS program to help him or her to get the support needed to participate in job training opportunities.
Many people with disabilities may still need to rely on receiving training that takes place directly in a work place. Many employers will routinely train their new employees so that they can learn to do a job. Community agencies may be able to work with and assist employers in providing on the job training to the employee with a disability. This may involve sending in a job “coach” to assist with the training, or working with the person’s supervisors and co-workers so that they are able to train a new worker who has a disability. See Module 2 for more information on job training strategies that employers can use.
It is also important to remember that job experience provides valuable opportunities for training. By being in regular workplaces, people learn about job routines, how to get along with their co-workers, and gain skills by simply having the opportunity to do certain jobs. The more that you can assist your child to have these opportunities the better they will be prepared to succeed at employment.
A Final Word
You may feel that employment is not a realistic goal for your child. If this is the case, we encourage you to not rule this out right away. It is important for you to remember that there are many people with intellectual and other disabilities who work part-time or full-time in our communities. Many people have proven themselves to be more capable than originally thought by their families, teachers, and by professionals.
If employment does not happen for your child, your advocacy may need to turn to ensuring that he or she has meaningful things to do in their waking hours. There are many possibilities including volunteering, recreation and leisure activities, joining a group or club, becoming involved in your local church or faith community, and so on. NBACL has prepared a brochure for families that provides tips and suggestions on ways to support your child’s community involvement. We also encourage you visit our community inclusion toolkit website by clicking here.