Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Let's Pray the Day of the "Mall Walkers" Has Ended!!!

Senator Carol Liu,  John, Steve & Al from Ralphs,
Barbara Firestone, Donna Ross Jones
Until Nick was diagnosed I never paid attention to how many people with developmental disabilities lived, worked or went to school around me. Sadly, until I loved someone with a disability, they were invisible to me.  

Conversely, as Nick has grown I have realized I never noticed how many people with developmental disabilities were all around me, including people employed at our local grocery store. Because of Nicky I've learned the commitment required to hire a person with special needs, and the strength of character it takes to stand up to the ignorant people who are bound to have something to say, a reason why some feel that our children are not appropriate for public jobs.

Donna Ross Jones at the Ca. Senate Select Committee on 
Autism and Related Disorders Excellence in Employment
Now, I notice everyone because my attention has shifted from early intervention to life skills and independence. I think about how community, independence, pride in a job well done, and being a part of something are essential to every human's well being and safety. I pray the day of the "Mall Walkers" has ended. I think a lot about "Where will he work?", "Where will he fit in?", "Will there be anyplace he's welcomed everyday?" and "Will anybody care"?  and mostly  "Will he be part of a community where he matters, where he's not invisible"?  I imagine scenarios that are not so good. It was with these concerns in the fore front of my mind that I noticed our local grocery store. It is staffed with all kinds of people, including people with different disabilities, physical and developmental, all woven seamlessly into a team, proudly interacting with customers and simply doing their jobs. I felt a sense of pride in my local store and the future.  Maybe just maybe there will be a place for Nick. This one store, this one manager's decision to hire people with disabilities, gave me hope! When I talked to the manager I learned that not only was he employing a wide array of folks, but he was not doing so in connection with any state program, but entirely on his own, paying full wages for real jobs!!!!!!!!!!!!!

As a Task Force member of the California Senate Select Blue Ribbon Commission on Autism and Related Disorders, I had the opportunity to nominate businesses which had gone a step beyond in hiring individuals with developmental disabilities to be recognized by the Senate for their important efforts.  I couldn't wait to nominate our local Ralphs and to publicly thank the manager and his team. 

I was thrilled when they were chosen to be recognized. The store manager attended a celebratory recognition luncheon hosted by The Help Group and Dr. Barbara Firestore, accompanied by two very special store employees.  The manager talked about his amazing employees who were always on time, always excited to do their jobs, and willing to do tasks that bored most folks.  

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