The Office of Disability Employment Policy as part of the United States Department of Labor proclaimed October as National Disability Employment Awareness Month. The majority of adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) are either unemployed or underemployed, despite their ability, desire, and willingness to engage in meaningful work in the community. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that in January 2010, the percentage of people with disabilities in the labor force was 21.8% compared with 70.1% for persons with no disability. A number of systemic factors contribute to this disparity in employment including budgetary constraints.
The Project SEARCH High School Transition Program in Anne Arundel is working to combat the unemployment and underemployment of people with developmental and intellectual disabilities. Project SEARCH is a year-long program which engages students with intellectual disabilities in career exploration and hands-on training using a combination of workplace rotations and classroom training. Students complete three internships in several areas of the hospital. Project SEARCH in Anne Arundel County is implemented with a unique partnership between The Arc Central Chesapeake Region, Hannah More School, Anne Arundel County Public Schools, Anne Arundel Medical Center as well as the Division of Rehabilitative Services.
Chris Hayward, of the Project SEARCH Student of the 2012 Inaugural Class says, “I’m learning to be as independent as possible. I’m learning things to help me get a job. For example, I know I’m good at organizing and making patient reminder calls. I am looking forward to learning new things which I will find out in my next internship.” For more information on Project SEARCH, contact Rebecca White at [email protected].