This year is the thirtieth anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and a new educational video series offers content that counteracts one of the greatest obstacles individuals with disabilities face: harmful misconceptions and stereotypes impacting employment. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 77% of working adults without a disability are employed, compared to only 33% of individuals with disabilities, despite studies finding that prioritizing an accessible, inclusive workspace is good for business.
A powerful way to combat the deeply entrenched misconceptions around people with disabilities and their ability to work is exposure. Exposing children to people with disabilities is associated with less anxiety, more empathy and better attitudes towards a population that encapsulates 40-million Americans. The "Work is for Everyone" educational video series exposes students to individuals with disabilities pursuing meaningful careers, and it sends an empowering message to students with disabilities across classrooms in America that their career dreams are possible.
The series is a collaboration by the Virginia Department of Education, the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services, and VCU's Center on Transition Innovations (CTI), and VirtualJobShadow.com. Eight videos feature professionals with disabilities working a variety of careers, including an author, web communications specialist, and a volunteer and outreach coordinator. The series is designed to promote career awareness for students and job seekers and show the value of a diverse, inclusive workforce.
“By featuring individuals with disabilities in a variety of careers, it allows all students to explore potential careers and gain an awareness that work is for everyone," says CTI's Director Elizabeth Getzel. CTI’s mission is to generate resources on pathways to employment that support youth with disabilities seeking integrated, competitive employment.
John Kregel, a Professor of Special Education and Associate Director of the RRTC at VCU, says that everyone needs to see role models for success in their field. He stresses how there should be no limit to an individual’s career path, how having low expectations limits you, and advised that, “students with disabilities can hold jobs everywhere. Follow your passion, intent with the understanding that you can be successful.”
Crystal Mario, the Founder and CEO of Rivanna Natural Designs where Reid Hall, one of the featured professionals with disabilities, works as a production assistant, stressed the autonomy participating in "Work is For Everyone" gave Reid, "for Reid to tell his story in his own voice is really important." Hiring a diverse workforce is in the very fabric of Rivanna, and she pointed out that from her own experiences, "it's helpful to understand that diversity affects all Employees—everyone wants to work in an environment where people are valued."
The video series is available on the CTI website and as well as VirtualJobShadow.com, where over a million students and job seekers can access them. Company CEO and co-founder Kim Celentano emphasized the importance of the "Work is for Everyone" video campaign. "We believe that showcasing diversity and inclusion in the workforce may be the single best way to inspire every individual that they can become anything they want to."
VirtualJobShadow.com is a comprehensive career and college readiness platform that serves over users in schools and workforce centers around the nation and features hundreds of professionally produced “day in the life” videos that showcase a diverse field of professionals doing their jobs, career and interest assessments, and educator tools, including the game-changing FlexLessons.
You can view the “Work for Everyone” project and learn more about the Center on Transitions Innovations at VCU, visit here.