Resources offer opportunity of employment for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities

Posted at 8:22 PM, Sep 20, 2019

Cynda Murrow has been working at Walgreens for four years.

“I get to meet new people, and I like to say hi to all of my co-workers,” Murrow said.

She’s a person just like anyone else, but we all have something that’s a part of our story. Murrow's story includes living with an intellectual and developmental disability.

“Some people don’t understand me, so that’s why I use a device to help me," Murrow said. "But some of the people speak Spanish, so that’s hard for me to speak Spanish because I don’t know Spanish. I know a little bit of Spanish though.”

Cynda says she loves her job. Just like any job, some days can be challenging. However, she always finds a way to make it work.

“(I have a) device that I use to help me speak if I have trouble," Murrow said. "I do have this button right here that says ’I’m using a communication device to help me speak. Please be patient with me.’”

Advocates who offer support for people with disabilities say employment is an important part of life. That’s why national organizations like The Arc work to break down those barriers.

“Employment is more than just getting a paycheck. Employment develops independent, self-esteem, self-protection, and limits vulnerability in mistreatment, abuse and neglect,” Luke Wheeland with The Arc said.

In the past 30 years, there’s been a lot of effort to get people with disabilities into the workforce. It all comes down to seeking out the right resources. Murrow’s mom says she’s been educating herself on what’s good for Murrow since the day she was born.

“I found that information is power, so I just learned as much as I could,” Murrow'’s mom Wayla Murrow said.

Another resource Murrow’s family uses, is the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation.

“Vocational Rehabilitation is the largest provider of job placement services for people with disabilities in the country,” Eric Clark with the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation said.

Clark says Vocational Rehabilitation programs exist in all 50 states and serves about a million people per year. Those who have a documented disability are able to partner with a rehabilitation counselor to develop an individual plan to find employment.

“In that process they’ll talk about what kind of employment are they interested in, what type of employment have they done before, what skills did they develop from that employment," Clark said. "But also, even talking about general life activities. Do they volunteer? Do they do sports?”

Clark says a good reference to use when applying for jobs is the Disability Equality Index . It’s a tool that rates businesses on how inclusive they are when it comes to hiring people with disabilities.

“In 2019 there were actually 180 business that did it nationwide. Of those, 156 of them had what they considered an exceptional score. And of those 156, over 100 of them were fortune 500 companies.”

Clark says businesses are realizing they should expand their opportunities.

“I would say that a person with a disability can be successful at any job with any business in any industry as long as they have the interest and the skills that match with what the business is looking for,” Clark said.

“I don’t really think about having a disability. I just like being me, and I want to be treated like regular people,” Murrow said.