Disabled community gets employment boost
Pointing to gaps which still exist in creating employment opportunities for persons with intellectual disabilities, the Jamaican Association on Intellectual Disabilities (JAID) recently launched phase two of the employment support programme in a bid to provide on-the-job training for participants.
Speaking with The Gleaner following the project launch, which was held at the Medallion Hall Hotel in St Andrew, Marilyn McKoy, development manager at JAID, explained that 50 companies have been identified and the programme will target youths who are beneficiaries of Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education.
"The idea is not just for skills training, but to build the capacity of young people to be successful. We have introduced the assessment tool and the self-determination curriculum, as research has shown that the more self-determined a person with ID (intellectual disabilities) is, the better they will be able to function in the workplace," she said.
"The intervention of the parents will be critical as well because the parents will have to walk us through the process. There are lots of groundwork that they will have to get involved in, which will be critical to the success of the programme," McKoy continued.
She explained that it is imperative that a holistic approach is employed when dealing with persons who are disabled.
"This group has been marginalised big time and we believe that it is absolutely necessary that they are given the support, so that employers can know their capabilities. We are looking forward to this round, and the cooperation of the partners will be key," she said.
"The challenge mainly is with attitude, they are largely seen as people who will never be able to achieve a level of success. What we seek to do is provide support in several areas of their lives, whether it is employment, daily living, health, safety, medical issues, and general socialisation. It might seem simple, but these are critical aspects that must be addressed for their overall success," the development manager said.
Samantha Chantrelle, chief executive officer for Digicel Foundation, who also has a son who is autistic, said employers have a role to play in ensuring that the needs of the disabled are met.
"With a staff comprising approximately 1,500 persons, we realise that only one disabled person was on staff. It was there that we recognised the need to address this issue," she told the gathering.
"We started what we call the power internship. We built a beautiful facility in downtown Kingston and thought that we were First-World, but we were hit with the hard truth - that we still had a lot to learn as a people about this group of persons," she continued.
"As a company, we make it a point of duty to ensure that this group is given the necessary support, both professionally and emotionally. I do not believe that this is something that we should brag about because catering to persons with disabilities should be the norm."