EHCC > End Hunger News > The Arc hosts roundtable during Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month

The Arc Southern Maryland took the opportunity last month to host a roundtable, giving local employers — DirectMail.com, End Hunger, and World Gym and The Arc — the chance to speak about the benefits and challenges of employing people with intellectual or developmental disabilities.

Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month brings attention to many matters impacting individuals with developmental disabilities each March. One of the ongoing challenges for these individuals is employment — often facing unemployment or underemployment despite their ability, desire, or willingness to work in the community.

In light of this, The Arc Southern Maryland took the opportunity last month to host a roundtable, giving local employers — DirectMail.com, End Hunger, and World Gym and The Arc — the chance to speak about the benefits and challenges of employing people with intellectual or developmental disabilities. According to a release from The Arc, their feedback would be heard by roundtable attendees, including Carol Beatty, secretary of the Maryland Department of Disabilities; Terry Long, CEO of The Arc Southern Maryland; and representatives from state agency partners, Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation; and the Maryland State Department of Education Division of Rehabilitation Services.

Beatty began the discussion by emphasizing the importance of ensuring that “individuals with disabilities have opportunities alongside other citizens in Maryland for great careers and great jobs.” She thanked the employers for attending and for taking part in a discussion about what makes them exemplary employers, what works for them, what challenges they face, and for providing feedback on ways the Department of Disabilities and state agency partners could become a resource and partner to the employers.

Feedback from the employers was overwhelmingly positive, according to the release. “We find it very, very rewarding,” Bob Salta, co-founder of DirectMail.com, said of employing those with disabilities. “I’ve been employing individuals with disabilities since the early seventies,” said Salta, “I just have a passion.”

Salta went on to explain that there was a time when there was no support for individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities seeking employment within the community. At the time, training these individuals, while managing some of their unique needs, could be a challenge. He was grateful that progress had since been made by agencies, such as The Arc, in providing staff that support individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities to gain and maintain employment, often assisting them directly on the job site.

“I would say they’re incredibly dependable,” said Salta of individuals he has employed, “it’s been a tremendous benefit to my company.” All the employers at the table expressed a desire to expand their workforce to include more individuals with differing abilities. Over 200 people with intellectual or developmental disabilities receive day and vocational services at The Arc and strong partnerships with local employers, like DirectMail.com, have enabled The Arc to place 32 percent of these individuals in some type of competitive employment, exceeding the state’s rate of 20 percent.

During the meeting, Beatty presented The Arc Southern Maryland with a proclamation, signed by Gov. Larry Hogan, recognizing Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month.

“This is a time for us to recognize that Maryland citizens and citizens across the country with developmental disabilities can live, work and thrive in the community,” Beatty said. “This brings attention to their accomplishments, as well as to the ways that all of us can help to create a better state for people with developmental disabilities, and this organization is doing a tremendous job here in this part of the state,” she said, praising the work of The Arc Southern Maryland.

Terry Long, CEO of The Arc Southern Maryland, accepted the proclamation. “We are incredibly proud of the strides we, and the employers we work with in Southern Maryland, have been able to make to employ individuals with developmental disabilities in our community. We hope these successes will enable more employers to recognize the strengths and benefits that individuals with diverse abilities can bring to the table in each and every workplace,” Long said.

For more about employment for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities or to become a trusted partner and employer, call 410-535-2413 or see www.arcsomd.org.