A fascinating look at how people with developmental disabilities are competing in a struggling US work force.
In a tough economy, the entire country worries about jobs, homes, and children’s futures. Yet how often do we think of the most vulnerable members of our society? Around eight million people in the US have a developmental disability but the vast majority – around 80 percent – remain unemployed.
They live in the shadows of society – all too separate from the non-disabled world. Many Americans in the US with development disabilities who do work have historically found refuge in “workplaces” – coalitions of industry and social service that provide manufacturing jobs. Most states in the US have facilities such as these – in Toledo, Ohio, there is Lott Industries.
Over the years, Lott has employed up to 1,200 workers at a time. For decades the company excelled in building car parts, competing successfully with the non-disabled and achieving the highest quality ratings. However, with the decline of the car industry in neighbouring Detroit, Lott is faced with a crisis.
For Lott to move into the modern age, it must overcome the odds to create a new, dynamic model for working environments for people with disabilities. This model must also be inclusive, allowing people with disabilities to work in the wider community. It must be self-sustaining and should provide people with disabilities a decent wage.
But for some whose lives are affected by disabilities, they are not sure that a workplace can evolve at all.