In 1972, KCARC began its mission in Knox County to bring accessible, compassionate and innovative services to people with disabilities. I am writing you with exciting news about KCARC’s new program, which will be a continuation of its mission to provide these services with the same kind of creativity and enthusiasm.
The new program and facility will be called “1972.” It is KCARC’s answer to the chronically high unemployment rate of people with disabilities. KCARC will donate its Plant 2 to house this exciting new program.
- promoting training
- job search and employment services
- corporate sustainability
- community recreation/participation
Please envision with me; a place where people with disabilities and their non-disabled peers and community members go for training, fun, learning, friendship, acceptance, relationship building, vocational preparation, empowerment, outreach to employers and much more. This vision is the heart and soul of “1972.”
The development of programs for people with disabilities has been substantially affected by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA was enacted by the U.S. Congress and signed into law by President George H.W. Bush on July 26, 1990. The ADA is a wide ranging civil rights law that prohibits discrimination based on disability. One of the key parts of the law was to create employment for people with disabilities. At the time of passage it was generally accepted that fully 77% of individuals with disabilities were unemployed. Today that number is still an unacceptable 69%. Though the ADA has done much to improve public accessibility all across our country in many facets of life like transportation, commercial facilities, and telecommunications, it has not delivered the anticipated results in employment. The reason it has not delivered is because training programs have not grown widely in their numbers and sophistication to address the needs of unemployed citizens with disabilities.
Public School officials are swamped with regulations that test their ability to meet the needs of all students. This impacts children and youth with disabilities differently than those who do not have disabilities. The life-long dreams, hopes, fears, and challenges faced by parents of children with disabilities are unique when it comes to preparing a child to enter the after-school years, at no fault of the schools. Nearly all children with disabilities are not ready for the early adult years upon leaving school. There is no college or university for children with disabilities that prepares them for the adult world of employment. These children who are becoming young adults are presented a society that all but ignores their needs for employment. The unemployment figures for people with disabilities dramatically reveal that awful truth: 69%!
Children and youth with disabilities face all the same problems and difficulties as their non-disabled peers and more. Being accepted and included are two big hurdles. Being truly included for kids with disabilities seldom happens. Self-image is a huge factor in successful employment. When a person faces exclusion, whether intended and hurtful or unintended, the pain and torment are immense. Knowing that insertion into the employment arena may be coming, successful employment is questionable. Young people with disabilities mostly do not enjoy part-time employment during the last few years of high school. They leave school without the valuable lessons learned as an employee. The new employment scene in the competitive work world can be not only overwhelming but downright scary. Most kids with disabilities are not as conversant and intelligent, nor socially sophisticated as their non-disabled peers. They lack training in basic work skills that are required for the 21st century. The new employer is likely to compare one to the other if employing both and arrive at a conclusion not in favor of the person with a disability. Job retention for people with disabilities is unacceptably low.
A community wishing to improve itself must acknowledge its weaknesses. As in all communities people with disabilities are underrepresented in the workplace. That is true in Knox County. By creating this unique approach to addressing the employment and retention of people in the workforce here in Knox County the community infrastructure will be significantly improved. Given an opportunity to earn a paycheck employed folks with disabilities are tax paying citizens. They strengthen their community by purchasing goods and services at home. It is seldom that our folks venture far to enjoy recreation, dining out, going to the movies, attending a sports activity as a fan, shopping, and many other activities. Dollars earned in the community for the most part, remain in the community.
KCARC Plant 2 is an excellent location and building to house the new program which will effectively address the needs of unemployed individuals with disabilities. KCARC is so confident of the new program content that not fewer than 22 individuals will be placed in competitive employment settings in Knox County annually. Plant 2 will undergo substantial renovations at no cost to United Way. In fact, KCARC specifically warrants that no United Way dollars will be used for renovations or other unacceptable purposes. Inside the plant is where the real action takes place. It is the center of activity that will address the chronic high unemployment rate of people with disabilities in the Knox County community with new and unique programs.
The ‘how’ is the most important part of this new opportunity for people with disabilities and for the rest of our community. A community is only as good as its weakest part. By strengthening opportunities for people with disabilities, the whole community is strengthened!
The program content is the critical element to assist people with disabilities in becoming successfully employed. Computers, softwares, and other program tools are essential. In today’s business world employees must be adept at the use of technology. The program content will develop essential technology skills. Skills like keyboarding, using the internet and proper phone etiquette are all basic entry-level skills demanded by employers. Examples program courses include:
- Seven Competency Skills for the Workplace – This program is an on-the-job documentary that teaches students the 7 skills they need to be successful.
- Social Skills at Work – This program features workers in real jobs while they explore essential topics related to work.
- Soft Skills at Work – This program focuses on the role soft skills play in the workplace and offers insight into which skills viewers need to develop to effectively handle a variety of work situations.
The building will house interactive workstations. Volunteers and student interns will be used to assist in training courses. That sounds good, but what does it mean. This interaction will be with non-disabled adults who come to “1972” for many different reasons. The building will be open for community groups to use in pursuit of their own objectives. We will welcome LAM, Helping His Hands, scouts, 4-H groups, and list goes on and on. The opportunity to interact with non-disabled others will provide a method for developing many of the personal skills so important to the employer. Community leisure time means many things to many people. For people with disabilities it means involvement, rubbing shoulders with non-disabled people, interacting in a typical daily fashion with others outside their isolated world. For example, there is a small group of ladies (approximately 10 to 12) in Vincennes that meet every month or two just to sit, talk, have tea, enjoy each other’s company and yes, gossip. This group will be invited to come to “1972”. Interest groups of differing ilk are encouraged to be a part of “1972”. The LAM community has many pressing needs. Employment is paramount. KCARC currently provides significant support for individuals receiving help from LAM. However, there is no technical IT training specifically designed for those with addiction issues. The new Smart Board program will provide the necessary training leading to employment.
KCARC is very excited about the “1972” facility and the opportunities it offers those with disabilities. As our community continues to look for more ways to serve those in need, we invite you to be a part of this innovative and compassionate project.