Better job opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities

Soufiane El Amrani and Milan Šveřepa wrote an article about employment, published in Dutch here. Below is an English version:

„As a person with intellectual disabilities I think it is important for all people with intellectual disabilities to have a job like everyone else,“ says Soufiane El Amrani, self-advocacy and easy-to-read officer at Inclusion Europe.

„Having a job will make that person know they can do things for themselves and that they can earn their own money. A person who earns their own money can buy things they want. Having a job helps to be more independent.

Having a job is also about having colleagues and co-workers. It is a good way to help inclusion in society.“

Employment gap

But having a job is something only small number of people with intellectual disabilities do.

There is a big gap in employment of people with disabilities in general: Only 50.8% of persons with disabilities in the EU have a job, while 74.8% without disabilities do.

For people with intellectual disabilities, this is much worse:

  • 36% of adults with intellectual disabilities in Ireland were in work, 29% in sheltered settings and 7.1% in the open labour market;
  • 6% of people with intellectual disabilities have a job in Scotland;
  • 3% in Portugal.

All over Europe the situation is similarly bad.

„As it is for everyone, employment is a big part of my identity. For me, having a job makes me feel that what I do is important to Inclusion Europe. I work at Inclusion Europe since 2008,“ explains Soufiane.

„But most people with intellectual disabilities don’t have a job. Most of us are left out of labour market, and there are many reasons that lead to that. For example, going to segregated schools or schools that did not qualify us for a job.“

Support to employment

People with intellectual disabilities must be able to work. This includes providing necessary support for them to take part in the open labour market. This support can be:

  • supported employment,
  • reasonable accommodation at the workplace,
  • job coach, customised job, and so on.

There are many examples of inclusive employment. And there are many tools for employers to implement it.

Most people with intellectual disabilities who actually have a job, they are in the sheltered workshops. This of course gives them at least some benefits of having a job. But there are some problems with this form of “employment”: In most cases, these jobs are not regulated by labour law.

Many jobs for people with intellectual disabilities are also only temporary and low paid. This is bad for financial reasons, but also because it limits social roles and relations.

But of course, progress is being made and there are improvements in job opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities. There are of course just some of them:

Among the many initiatives improving the situation is also the 1000 voorbeelden en the jobplan in the Netherlands, which brings together businesses and other organisations to create employment opportunities for people with disabilities.

“It feels good to do something important”

“I started working as office assistant. I am glad my work at ÉFOÉSZ is useful. What I do is valued and respected,” says László Bercse, who works at the Hungarian association and is vice-president of Inclusion Europe.

“I worked my way from office assistant to a co-chair. I represent ÉFOÉSZ on national and international levels. I teach at universities and speak at important events. I have interesting tasks and I get paid for my work.”

And Lázsló has a message for all people with: “If you are looking for a job: I know it is difficult, but don’t give up! When you find a job you like, it will be great experience. It feels very good to do something important.”

A Dutch version of this article is published here.

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