Special Needs Employment: Building Opportunities for All

Stephen’s Place works to create opportunities for special needs employment.

As an Independent Apartment Community, we would go to the ends of the earth and back to help our residents feel fulfilled and capable. We offer a variety of means to support this. One area that often presents a challenge is in the area of special needs employment. This includes finding companies that will support an individual with disabilities working for them, providing transportation to and from work, consistency in scheduling when working with job coaches, as well as finding a job coach who is a match with our residents and believes in their abilities as much as we do.  The physical and mental demands of a job can also be an obstacle, because an individual with disabilities can become completely drained from the effort it requires them to do the same job at the same level as a neurotypical person. There are so many variables that come into play to help our residents find success in employment.  

One of the goals of Stephen's Place is to build opportunities for special needs employment.

From an outsider’s perspective you might look at all of this and simply say it isn’t worth it.  The time, the effort and the personnel resources needed can be a little overwhelming.  However, it is worth just as much to our residents to have a job as it is to us.  It’s not just a paycheck (in fact, many times this is the smallest benefit they receive), but the feeling of contribution, of being needed and knowing someone is counting on you.  Even the simple benefit of a regular schedule is not lost on someone with a disability.

That means those of us who are neurotypical have an important piece of the puzzle.  Our role is to help find success and to work through the rough patches (we all have them!) that are just a bit more difficult for those with disabilities.  We must work harder because it’s what our residents and everyone with disabilities deserves.

The magic that is created when a resident finds a job is simply that — magic — an employer who supports the individual and takes the time to learn about the disability.  The employer gets the opportunity to have a dedicated employee who, many times, is more reliable than an employee who doesn’t have a disability.  The manager actively creates a culture of inclusion, leads their team in supporting more than just jobs and more than just an organization.  In the words of an inclusion leader, Elaine Hall, “Inclusion elevates all.”

Another benefit for the employer is the staff member with a disability typically has a job coach that is also dedicated to their success.  If you asked any boss if it would be helpful for all of their employees to have a job coach they would say yes!  The more people someone has committed to their well-being, the more that success will become a reality.

Organizations that are leaders in the world of inclusion can also gain a monetary interest from the government and create a following of people who support their business because they have supported the neurodiverse!

At Stephen’s Place we strive to create this scenario for our residents.  We have made it a priority and have taken steps to ensure they achieve their goals.  We may not get it right every time, but each day we work to make it better.  This dedication has led to many success stories.  It’s such an incredible joy when someone gets their first interview, lands the job, and receives their first paycheck.  Even better is watching the excitement of knowing their schedule, getting to see friends they have made at work, and sharing what they contributed.

The Vancouver community in Washington has supported employment of our residents at various organizations such as MOD Pizza, Taco Bell, Kuni Automotive, First Choice Employment, some Assisted Living communities, and volunteer opportunities at Habitat for Humanity and the Southwest Washington Humane Society.  And of course, we employ neurodivergent individuals at Stephen’s Place too!