Patrice Jeter loves her job. Hamilton As the school crossing guard in her township, she looks forward to greeting children each day, ensuring they reach their destination safely, and building trusting relationships with the elementary school students she assists.
Jetter is incredibly quintessential, a hard-working New Jersey resident and outlier who wants to make his community better. She is an adult with cerebral palsy, affecting her cognition and body. She is working to see some advocates make a difference among the few residents with disabilities employed in the Garden State.
Data recently released by the U.S. Census Bureau shows that employment rates and median wages for adults with disabilities are low nationwide. But advocates say residents with disabilities are just as employable as adults without disabilities.
Mercedes Witowski, executive director of the New Jersey Council on Developmental Disabilities, said: It is to help encourage them to seek employment,” he said.
A tight labor market is forcing employers to reassess whether hiring is reaching all segments of the workforce.
“We want people with disabilities to be good employees and employers to make the workforce stronger,” said Tom Buffett, executive director of the Ark of New Jersey, a statewide organization for people with developmental disabilities. We believe this will provide an excellent opportunity to fill the ranks of
Because the Census Bureau’s estimates of disability in New Jersey do not specifically classify intellectual or developmental disabilities, it is difficult to estimate how many working-age residents fall into that category. According to survey data, approximately 6.7% of state residents between the ages of 18 and 64 have a disability, including “cognitive impairment.”
It is also common for people with disabilities to be affected in multiple ways, further complicating the data.In Jetter’s case, her cerebral palsy affects both cognition and movement.
She uses a dedicated van to accommodate travel restrictions, and when that van broke down, she was unable to stay on her crossing guard job.
It took too long to get on the bus, and even if it did, it meant there was nowhere to sit to escape the cold among groups of children who needed help crossing. (Jetter said the township has put her job on hold while she works out the new traffic situation.)
The number of full-time employees with cognitive impairment is incredibly low, with less than 1% of full-time New Jersey residents having a cognitive impairment, according to Census Bureau data. If you look at part-time employment, the numbers are a little higher. About 3% of part-time workers have a cognitive impairment, according to Census Bureau data.
The situation is even better if we consider only those with disabilities who do not live in institutions such as nursing homes or other group care centres. About a quarter of adults with any type of disability living in the community are employed compared to her 66% of adults without disabilities.
Jetter now works two days a week at the front desk of the local ice rink, where he checks in athletes, books birthday parties and collects payments. She’s special to the Olympics because it’s the same rink where she trains to skate, so having a community built in is a great bonus, she said.
Employment is more than just a paycheck, Mr Witowsky said. It’s also a way to build a more balanced life, meet new people, and become part of the ‘structure of society’.
However, not all employers understand the benefits of hiring people with disabilities. This is a combination of years of prejudice against the disabled community and a misconception that employment is too difficult due to legal obligations.
Employees with disabilities are entitled to reasonable accommodations under the ADA. This includes giving a cashier with a sore knee a chair to sit in and letting employees leave early for her once-a-week doctor visit. Most accommodations are “minimal,” Witowsky said.
“Employers need to understand that hiring people with disabilities is not as difficult as they think,” Witowski said.
Jetter credits her disability as one of the reasons it took her so long to be first hired as a crossing guard over 20 years ago.
She applied 12 times to become a school crossing guard in the town of Essex County where she lived at the time, but was rejected each year on a note that she lacked sufficient experience.
“The newspaper articles they put out every summer always say no experience needed, we train,” she said.
But in Year 13, Jetter took a different approach. Following the advice of his brother, a town police officer, Jetter wrote a letter to the newly elected mayor.
“I cannot prove that I am discriminated against,” Jetter recalled writing. “But I can prove that I am being treated unfairly.”
She got a job that year.
Jetter knew to defend himself and was relentless in his pursuit of what he knew was the right job for him. But for others, there are services that help step-by-step through the entire hiring process.
Job coaches are assigned to job seekers and new hires by groups such as The Arc to help them provide more hands-on instruction and coaching as they search for and start new jobs, Baffuto said. says.
Job coaches help job seekers fill out applications and guide them through interviews. Once employees start working, job coaches help them onboard and make it easier for employees to learn We train them how to get the job done, Baffuto said.
That coach stays with the employee for as long as necessary, checking in from time to time, such as if the employee gets a promotion or role change and needs additional on-the-job guidance.
All of this will be done at no cost to the employer, Buffat said.
All industries employ people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, Baffuto said, but many of those served by The Arc work in food service and retail. After The Arc began a partnership with the New Jersey Business and Industry Association, there has also been a recent uptick in customer service jobs and business rep jobs, Baffuto said.
This relationship is mutually beneficial for employers and employees. Businesses receive tax benefits for hiring adults with disabilities, and employees enjoy all the benefits of conventional employment, he said, Baffuto.
Employers committed to inclusive hiring also saw a 90% improvement in employee retention, according to a study by Arc conducted in partnership with the New Jersey Department, Baffuto saw firsthand. says there is something.
“I literally ran into someone I helped get a job 35 years ago, and he’s still working[at the same job]. He still remembers helping me get a job,” says Baffuto. said Mr. “So we have really long-lived people who have been working for a long time.”
More than a decade ago, on her first day on the job as a crossing guard, Jetter grinned broadly as a skeptical sergeant handed her a whistle and a stop sign and said she was lucky even at the police station. You said you went to the police station. she had a place for her.
“In the end, I ended up being one of the best security guards they had,” said Jeter.
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