The Value of Work
Our culture values work. It is expected that adults will work to earn money to support themselves. This value is true for people with disabilities. Additionally, we recognize that working in the community provides so much more than just a paycheck. Numerous studies have shown that people with disabilities who are working in the community report other non-monetary benefits to working.
- Working people believe more in their abilities: they have higher expectations of what they can accomplish, and this spreads to other areas of their lives.
- Working people feel more connected to the greater community. People report having a higher number of friendships with people without disabilities through work.
- Working people report having better health and sense of well-being than non-working people.
- Working people report having meaning in their lives. Being employed makes people feel that they are engaged in meaningful activities; there is a purpose to their lives.
- Working people make money. Many people with developmental disabilities live in or near poverty. Income from paying jobs helps supplement their resources and improves the quality of the lives they can live.
Any vocational activity used to prepare for a job is beneficial, as long as it is time-limited and has as the expected outcome of an integrated, community job. An integrated, community job is defined as work providing a minimum wage or higher and related benefits in a typical work setting where the employee with a disability has the opportunity to interact with co-workers without disabilities and has an opportunity for career advancement.
Employment First is a concept that Virginia values. It means offering the option of integrated, community employment as the first choice of day activity to people entering services. If the person has no reference for choosing work (has no work experience), they should have an opportunity to do work assessments to see what it is like. Those who are not currently working should have frequent opportunities to learn about work, the types of jobs people do, and to be exposed to working people within their interest areas.