Many individuals with disabilities must worry about the “disability cliff” when they age out of school. This cliff refers to the loss of structure and coordination of services that students are entitled to in the education systems; instead individuals are expected to navigate an often-confusing delivery system to receive services with little assistance during the transition. One of the key issues is difficulty finding meaningful employment in the community.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 17.5 percent of individuals with a disability were employed in 2015. People with disabilities often face harder prospects for securing positions because of the various barriers to employment including discrimination, lack of transportation, and insufficient training.
Some organizations are creating social enterprises to combat this pervasive issue. A social enterprise is defined as a revenue-generating organization that applies commercial strategies to maximize improvements in human and environmental well-being, rather than being driven by the need to deliver profit to shareholders.
MediSked’s partner, The Northeast Arc, entered the food service business in 2016 when they opened Breaking Grounds Café in Peabody, MA. The Northeast Arc is able to provide job training and employment experience in the food and customer service industries for people with disabilities. Another one of MediSked’s partners – The Arc of Steuben runs the Arc Café – a cozy restaurant and coffee house in Bath, NY. The Arc Café employs many of the individuals that it supports and others in the community.
A Rochester-based organization, Special Touch Bakery, also offers training and employment opportunities for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The bakery provides individuals with an income and the development of lifelong skills to further their opportunities in the working world.
A highlight of these social enterprises is that they employ people of all abilities, which allows people with disabilities to be working in the community with colleagues of all kinds. The value of social enterprises like these are indispensable as they not only provide and income, job training, and experience, but they also instill confidence, promote opportunities to make friendships, and teach skills needed for maximum independence and integration in the community.