Americans with intellectual and developmental disabilities experience very high rates of unemployment. Peter Berns of The Arc discusses efforts toward inclusive workplaces, enhancing the diversity, productivity and quality of the overall workforce. Click here for part 1 of Intellectual Disability Employment.
Interview recorded Sept 27, 2017.
Traynham: I think its important to really hone in on the intellectual and developmental disabilities. What conditions are we talking about?
Berns: So, the most common conditions that people have heard of will be conditions like Down syndrome, or autism-spectrum disorder, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, Fragile X. But there are literally, you know, hundreds of conditions that manifest as an intellectual disability or a developmental disability.
Traynham: And for the folks out there who would like to know more about your program, where can they go?
Berns: Well, they can go to our website -- www.thearc.org and learn about a program we call TheArc@Work.
Traynham: And speaking of TheArc@Work, I know we talked about this a few moments ago, but are there any programs like TheArc@Work that we should know about that you're working on?
Berns: Well, you know, one of the really interesting things that we're doing as part of TheArc@Work is a program that really specializes on helping individuals on the autism spectrum find jobs in the information- technology industry.
Traynham: Can you give an example of that?
Berns: Well, for example, we've been doing work with The Arc of Philadelphia and SAP in that community --
Traynham: And just so I understand, SAP is a German manufacturer, is that correct?
Berns: SAP is a large, global technology firm. And they've worked in collaboration with The Arc of Philadelphia to identify individuals on the autism spectrum and put them to work in jobs in technology, and SAP's actually doing that all around the world. We?re helping them here in the United States.
Traynham: You know, Peter, I think it's really important to underscore throughout this interview that there are people out there that want to work, but just as importantly, they are perfectly capable to be able to do the job and to perhaps maybe lower and/or erase some of the stigma out there that folks will say, "Hmm, well, this person will have whatever they may have. They're unemployable." That?s just simply not true in all cases.
Berns: It's simply not true and what employers tell us when they provide someone with disabilities an opportunity to work, is that they will be among their most reliable employees and they will have a really positive impact in the workforce. All the other employees in the workforce will appreciate the work that that individual does and the commitment that they bring to the job.
Traynham: I've heard that before, Peter, that, statistically, these individuals actually have a higher work ethic. Their attendance rate is much, much higher. In other words, they're just such a joy to work with, because they're so low-risk in many ways.
Berns: Yeah, we even know of employers that have hired folks in the manufacturing jobs, and the injury rates went down in companies once they hired people with disabilities into their workforce.
Traynham: Peter Berns, CEO of The Arc, it's always good to see you. Thank you very much for joining us.
Berns: It's great to be with you again.
Traynham: And thank you for joining us, as well. For more great conversations with leaders in your community and across the nation, visit comcastnewsmakers.com. I'm Robert Traynham