The city of Seattle is doing unique work for those with developmental disabilities. A grant in 1998 from the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation and the King County Division of Developmental Disabilities made it possible to loan a staff person to the city to design 30 jobs for people with developmental disabilities. Since that time, employment for people with developmental disabilities has jumped to 80 and the city just passed legislation to create an additional 50 positions.
The secret behind the city’s success is really no secret. A lot of it comes down to jobs that match the employees’ skills. Many of the jobs are ones that are simple and repetitive. Anyone can learn to do tasks if the tasks are broken down in the right way and the employee is correctly trained. This is where a job coach can be very helpful. The job title “Office/Maintenance Aide” was deliberately created with no job description. This was done to create flexibility for the positions so that the employees weren’t eliminated based on the job description. This also made it possible to design jobs based on the true business needs.
Around 80 percent of the jobs are completed in an office environment. These jobs range from shredding confidential documents and refilling paper supplies to delivering mail and collating packets. The other 20 percent involves warehouse or labor work. The types of jobs are determined by the employee’s skills and the business needs of the workplace.
The city is seeing lots of benefits with this program:
Cost Savings – easier tasks are being diverted away from more expensive employees, resulting in an efficient division of labor
Team-building- these employees with good attitudes are having a positive impact on the workplace
Mentoring – other employees have a chance to mentor someone who needs more help
The key to creating jobs for people with developmental disabilities is to start identifying tasks and bundling them into a job. Just creating one job at a time will help to build a company’s program.