While we see ‘hiring now’ signs everywhere these days, it’s a cold, hard fact – according to the folks at Easterseals – that unemployment rates for people with disabilities are three times higher than for people non-disabled, even in times like these.
Transportation, socialization and other factors simply make it more difficult for people with disabilities to find employment.
Easterseals, which has been helping people with special needs and disabilities for over 100 years nationwide, focuses locally on employment, making the transition from school to adulthood a better experience for young adults with disabilities. Easterseals strives to empower those they serve to reach and realize their full potential.
The Easterseals Florida Naples program is called LEAP, which stands for Life Skills, Employment Readiness, Advocacy and Participation.
Clients participate in community education, volunteering, and work activities that enhance both social and vocational skills development.
The aim is to provide students with functional and age-appropriate skills so that they can live and work as independently as possible and can become employable.
“LEAP is a daytime training program for adults ages 18 and older with various disabilities,” says Catrina Sanchez, director of the Easterseals Naples center. “For the life skills part, we have mini cooking stations that host what we call ‘adaptive cooking.’ We also have dedicated daily tasks like dusting, vacuuming and cleaning the bathroom. Our community skills component allows our participants to go out and on day trips to do things like adaptive sailing at Sugden Regional Park, social activities through the county parks department and boat trips. boat through the Freedom Waters Foundation, which provides therapeutic boat experiences for people with special needs. .”
According to Ms. Sanchez, “Everything about the program is based on the choices of the participants, which really allows independence, self-esteem and happiness to happen on a daily basis. For employability skills, we work on resume writing, job search and typing, camera use, 3D printing, use of Adobe Photoshop software, then Zoom to communicate .
They also work closely with Holiday Inn Club Vacations and Sunset Cove Resort on Marco Island, an Easterseals partner for 10 years. Sunset Cove General Manager Neal McDonald is delighted to be involved with Easterseals. “We, along with our guests, await the arrival of our Easterseals customers two to three days a week,” says McDonald. “We build a relationship with them when they check in and receive their name badge and work assignments for their on-the-job training.”
Several clients are able to work independently and others work with a trainer or instructor doing various cleaning jobs.
“For me, it’s rewarding to be in the community and meet current and former clients who have been placed in the workforce and are doing well,” McDonald said.
A LEAP customer, who was recently hired by Jason’s Deli, said she never thought this day would come. But thanks to Easterseals, it is. Another LEAP customer loves the staff at Easterseals. “They treat us like adults and respect each of us.”
Shannon Hayes is a Behavioral Intervention Specialist for People with Developmental Disabilities and the Lead LEAP Instructor. “My students have learned more skills than I can count and have grown tremendously,” she says proudly. “But at the end of the day, all that matters is that I contributed to their happiness. Whether it’s the daily smiles or seeing our participants land meaningful jobs, we know we’re making a difference. in their life.
To learn more or to donate to the cause, visit www.easterseals.com/florida. ¦