This article appeared in the August 02, 2021 edition of the Monitor Daily.

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Will work opportunities expand for people with disabilities?

Steven Senne/AP
Pedestrians walk past a sign inviting people to apply for employment at a shop in Boston's fashionable Newbury Street neighborhood, July 5, 2021. A reviving economy means expanded opportunities, including for workers with disabilities.
Laurent Belsie
Senior Economics Writer

The call came from the school this morning. Madeleine’s work supervisor wanted our permission to treat her and two other students to lunch at Chipotle because they had not missed a day of work at the six-week summer training program at the high school.

Madeleine hasn’t said a lot about her experience, but the supervisor was highly complimentary about her skills and dedication. Those are especially soothing words for parents of a child in a special-education track. Many parents like us have the same questions as their children approach the end of school and the beginning of a working life. What can my child do? Are there employers out there with the willingness and patience to find and tap their unique mix of talents?

In a way, the pandemic may have produced a ray of hope for such workers. In a bid to retain employees who are working at home, companies have gone out of their way to make accommodations, including for those with disabilities. The big question is whether those accommodations will continue.

One positive sign is that the percentage of people with disabilities who are on furlough is approaching pre-pandemic levels, according to a report from the Kessler Foundation, although the unemployment rate remains far above what it was. And new firms are cropping up with the explicit aim of employing such workers.

In March, for example, Megan Elder started the Moose and Me Bakery in Naperville, Illinois, with two workers with developmental challenges and has plans to expand and hire more.

Last week, rapper Trae tha Truth opened Howdy Homemade Ice Cream in Houston with a similar idea. One parent of a Howdy Ice Cream worker told the Houston Chronicle, “Yes, it takes longer to train them. It takes more repetition to learn the skills, but once they have it, they have it, and they are joyous.”

This article appeared in the August 02, 2021 edition of the Monitor Daily.

Read 08/02 edition
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