Changing Community Perspectives: Vocational Inclusion
A Behavior Therapist at iCan Dream Center affectionately known as “Mr. T” shared that “…what [he] experienced is truly eye opening!” in response to his role in supporting the acquisition of critical vocational skills at community job placement sites. He has a first-hand perspective of the tendency for employers to underestimate our student’s capabilities.
At iCan Dream Center students are placed in a community-based internship. The goal is to provide an opportunity for the youth to generalize the competencies that they have learned within the controlled and safe environment at the center. We match students with jobs that align with their skills and interests which is remarkably challenging. While there are several viable job sites, students with disabilities aren’t always welcomed with open arms by employers.
The students at the iCan Dream Center are eligible for special education under various disability categories. As an organization we focus on the value of the individual and what he/she has to offer the world. While the general population may not approach the students in this way the organizations that have taken the courageous first step to hire individuals with developmental disabilities are forever transformed. One disturbing discovery in a study was that “72% of all companies cited the nature of their work as too challenging for people with disabilities” (Fraser et al 2010, p.421). The iCan Dream Center has made it a goal to fight against this assumption and provides our students with skills needed to be effective within the workplace.
iCan Dream students have become an integral part of the staffing at The Pink Paninis located in Hazel Crest, IL. Prior to the opening of the sandwich shop we contacted them with the offer of reliable workers and after a candid conversation with the owner, Latrice Wright, she signed on as a community partner. She reports “they have been great, a blessing every day.” We have close to three dozen community job placement partners who share Ms. Wright’s sentiments. iCan Dream Center is committed to doing our part in shifting perspectives around the employability of individuals with disabilities.
Fraser, T. R, Johnson, K., Herbert, J., Ajzen, I., Copeland, J., Brown, P., & Chan, F., (2009). Understanding Employers’ Hiring Intentions in Relation to Qualiﬁed Workers with Disabilities: Preliminary Findings. Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation 20:420–426 DOI 10.1007/s10926-009-9220-.