Elizabeth, NJ – June 28, 2022–Something about Jack Esposito’s job makes him excited to be there every day. From the music and cheers booming through the stadium to the way the lights flicker when a player hits a home run, his love of baseball makes the position a natural fit.
Esposito has been working as a janitor at the Somerset Patriots Baseball TD Bank Ballpark for eight years. He is one of many people with developmental disabilities who work in the United States, but hundreds of thousands of eligible people are still looking for jobs and the critical money and autonomy they generate.
“My job helps me get money so I can pay for things every day, like my phone bill,” Esposito said. “I love this stadium and I love the fans.”
People with developmental disabilities have a much higher unemployment rate than the general population. The national unemployment rate for people with disabilities was 10.1 percent in 2021 compared to about 3.9 percent unemployment among the total population. The statistics for those with developmental disabilities, however, can be difficult to pin down. A survey commissioned by Special Olympics found in 2013 that 21 percent of working age adults with developmental disabilities were unemployed, and only 34 percent were employed.
What people with different abilities can do depends not just on their abilities and training, but also the opportunities they are able to access. That means employers taking responsibility to fairly consider all applicants.
“We’re an equal opportunity employer, so we don’t discriminate against anybody, no matter what their ability or disability is,” said Bryan Iwicki, Esposito’s supervisor. “We just find kids we like and Jack we kind of fell in love with. He had a cool story that he worked with a [school] baseball team and all the kids loved him. He just worked out to be a great kid here on the staff. He comes in and always has a lot of energy; he’s always excited and cheering for the team.”
Community Access Unlimited provides employment and training services to help members with disabilities be successful at work, and connects with employers to find the right jobs for them. Services include job coaching and supported employment, prevocational training, career planning, and an internship program.
Like Esposito, Jennifer Brown is a loyal employee with a long tenure at her job at Shoprite. Both Esposito and Brown have a CAU job coach who visits them at work to help them with any questions or challenges they may have on the job.
Brown echoed that working improves her quality of life and increases her independence. She has been able to save money to visit Niagara Falls this summer and is also planning a first anniversary honeymoon trip in July.
“I get my nails done and my hair cut; I go out on the weekend and do activities,” Brown said. “And I have to pay the bills like the phone bill and whatever else.”
Many employers are still hesitant to hire workers with disabilities, stating concerns over their skills, ability to work unsupervised, or simply that it could be more work to manage them, according to Sandra Lynch, who manages employment services and the community support program at CAU. The agency supports over 20 individuals with disabilities working in the community, and about 20 more CAU members are actively looking for a job.
“We really have to educate people in the statistics that people with disabilities are valuable employees,” Lynch said. “They report to work and have less callouts, they have more passion about the job and can be willing to go the extra mile.”
Beyond promoting an inclusive work environment, employers who have embraced disability as a component of their talent strategy report a 90 percent increase in retention of valued employees, 72 percent increase in employee productivity, and 45 percent increase in workplace safety, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
The Americans with Disabilities Act requires that employers provide effective, reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities. CAU can help employers and employees work together as a team to understand accommodation needs and find a solution. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more, or call 908-354-3040.
“As a job coach I enjoy making members feel as comfortable in their jobs as possible,” said CAU job coach Aenyae Chapman. “I let them know that it’s ok to ask questions and I can provide redirection if needed.”
Employers can also find resources on hiring people with disabilities from the Department of Labor.
About Community Access Unlimited
Community Access Unlimited (CAU), celebrating 43 years in 2022, supports people with special needs in achieving real lives in the community. CAU provides support and gives voice to adults and youth who traditionally have little support and no voice in society. CAU helps people with housing, life skills, employment, money management, socialization and civic activities. CAU also supports opportunities for advocacy through training in assertiveness, decision-making and civil rights. CAU currently serves more than 3,000 individuals and families, with the number served growing each year. For more information about CAU and its services, contact us by phone at 908.354.3040, online at www.caunj.org or by mail at 80 West Grand Street, Elizabeth, NJ 07202.