California Based Program Successfully Breaking Down Employment Barriers Against Developmental Disabilities

California Based Program Successfully Breaking Down Employment Barriers Against Developmental Disabilities

An innovative new approach to breaking down barriers and prejudices that individuals with developmental disabilities face in the workplace is having a real impact in the Southern California area. By providing a dedicated program that is tailored to each individual, Yes I Can Unity Through Music and Education (YIC) is tackling long fought challenges to improve its participants’ quality of life, prospects, and independence.

Shocking statistics demonstrate just how much of uphill battle individuals with developmental disabilities, such as autism, face as they seek to enter the job market and build a life. Those with disabilities represent the single largest minority group seeking work in the US, yet they face numerous roadblocks to securing employment. It is estimated, for example, that 80-90% of adults on the autism spectrum are unemployed. Even when those with disabilities do secure work, they’re often paid far less than other employees. Disabled individuals are twice as likely to have an annual household income of $15,000 or less and almost a third earn an income that falls below the poverty line.

While the barriers are obvious, the solutions often aren’t for those affected. Just 2.76% of working age individuals that have a developmental disability in the State of California are accessing support services or job coaching. It is this vital gap that YIC aims to close, providing more adults with the essential, targeted support that they need.

YIC provides a comprehensive suite of services to teenagers and adults that are designed to build critical workplace skills and confidence to help them secure competitive employment within the music and entertainment industries. Combined with its innovative outreach program, in which the organization works with leading industry employers to dispel myths and encourage an inclusive, integrated workforce, YIC is having a tangible, positive impact on breaking down barriers.

Bret Lieberman, Executive Director of YIC, says, “YIC’s programs and services aim to reduce barriers, increase opportunity, and meet an essential need by fostering competitive integrated employment for a population that has historically faced great disadvantage in securing employment and earning a competitive salary in comparison on the non-disabled population.”

Kirsten Fitzpatrick, YIC’s Deputy Director, adds, “To achieve its goal, YIC utilizes a person-centred planning model based on each consumer’s needs, abilities, independent living skills, personal interests, and goals. As well as providing comprehensive support and services that aids program participants with securing employment at a competitive wage, we help them to maintain employment.”

YIC’s focused approach, which is crafted with each participant in mind, builds skills necessary for employment and general life skills. By taking a person-centred pathway, YIC delivers a year-long training program that leads into a six-month paid internship and ultimately employment. YIC currently operates across the Southern California region and is pursing funding with a number of state funded agencies.

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