Ceremony Draws Awareness to Key Issue
By CRAIG CURRIER
In northwest Michigan, we know all too well about low wages, unemployment, under-employment and the zig-zagging path to providing enough for yourself or your family.
Imagine if, through no choice of your own, you were dealt an even harder card to play.
For people with developmental disabilities in this region — and every other, for that matter — often times the impediment to independence and happiness is a lack of opportunity.
Federal officials report about one in six children have at least one developmental disability, which include a wide range of conditions from Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and learning disabilities to Down syndrome, autism and cerebral palsy. In Michigan, according to a 2014 study titled “Employment First,” 81 percent of people with such disabilities are unemployed.
“This is despite many individuals with disabilities having marketable skills and a true desire to work,” leaders of the study, which include the Michigan Developmental Disabilities Council, state in the study’s summary. “In fact, the National Core Indicators Adult Consumer Survey shows that 60 percent of individuals with disabilities in Michigan want a job in their community; however, only 17 percent of them have one.”
The problem, as experts and advocates say, is not that those with such impairments are unable to perform many of the tasks required of the general workforce, but that the expectation is they can’t. Many in Lansing and around the state are working to change that perception, but the shift is slow and the debate over whether and how to legislate it has many sides.
October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month and the Petoskey News-Review and one of its employees, 21-year-old Jordan Caldwell, participated in the statewide “Take Your Legislator to Work Campaign” as part of the effort to focus attention on the problem.