Employment is an important part of community inclusion for people with disabilities. Meaningful work fosters personal growth, equal opportunity, self-sufficiency, and independence. During National Disability Employment Awareness Month, The Arc is celebrating the many contributions and achievements of employees with disabilities in the local workforce and raising awareness of employment-related advantages unique to hiring people with disabilities.
Meet Andy, he has spent the last two months learning the ropes as a Vending Clerk for The Arc of the Quad Cities Iowa. He spends one day a week, filling the vending machines in the Illinois Goodwill’s in Moline and Rock Island, and the other day filling the machines in the Iowa Goodwill’s in Davenport and Bettendorf. There was a lot to learn as this was a new position, but thanks to his job coach from The Arc of the Quad Cities Area’s Community Employment Services program he was able to navigate any challenges. He is also supported by his support staff from IAG (Individual Advocacy Group) who drives him to each location and assists in loading and unloading the beverages and treats he uses to fill vending machines in each store.
Andy has noticed that each store has their snack preferences, “The demographics of each store is different so the best-selling snacks vary.” Although his favorite snacks are M&M’s and Fruit Gushers, he’s noticed that chips and soda are a favorite across the board, with the least-selling item being bottled water. “No one wants water,” he says.
Andy’s new job would not have been possible if not for the support of the Scott County Regional Authority (SCRA) which provided funding for two vending machines that served as a basis for the social enterprise that supports Andy’s new position. The Arc of the Quad Cities Iowa which was established in 1962 to enhance the lives of people with disabilities has been a volunteer organization until just recently. It took 61 years and a generous donation from the SCRA, to make Andy the first employee. It is significant that in an organization dedicated to people with disabilities, the first employee is someone with disabilities. The Arc is proud of Andy and this new venture.
Andy has advice for anyone with a disability who is thinking about community employment, “I encourage people to get a job.” “Don’t give up, and don’t sit around.” Clearly, Andy has taken this advice and is benefitting from his decision.
During the month of October, we will be showcasing inclusive workplace practices that benefit disabled workers and employers. More and more employers are trying out-of-the-box thinking to address a tight labor market. Opportunities favor creative approaches, find out how The Arc’s Community Employment Services program can benefit your team at www.arcqca.org.