The mentally disabled endure many stereotypes that prevent them from fulfilling their potential. One stereotype is that they cannot become productive members of the workplace. Nothing could be further from the truth. People with developmental disabilities bring a sense of pride and joy into the workplace. They are quite frequently the most productive, prompt and courteous employees that a company employs. Unlike their more jaded co-workers, the mentally disabled are forever grateful for the opportunity to prove themselves. Their enthusiasm is often contagious, making the environment around them a happier place to work.
Supermarkets offer many jobs for the mentally challenged. Larger chains of grocery stores often employ the developmentally disabled as bag packers or stock clerks. Mentally-challenged individuals are quite capable of mastering repetitive tasks, which make them ideal for the consistent nature of grocery retail. They stock shelves, clean the aisles, and help customers with their purchases. They often excel at customer service, making them an asset to the organization. While they may not be advanced enough to run the cash register, there are many other tasks for these individuals.
Mentally-challenged individuals may also find employment in the restaurant industry. Fast-food restaurants employ mentally-disabled individuals as cleaners and also as kitchen staff. These individuals often help assemble food orders for customers, in addition to sometimes taking orders. The registers at some fast-food restaurants are now very user-friendly, allowing mentally-challenged individuals to take on this task. Mentally-disabled individuals may also work as busboys or dishwashers in restaurants. Tim Harris, a man born with Down’s Syndrome, manages his own restaurant in New Mexico, where he gives out hugs to every customer.
Manufacturing jobs are often repetitive and monotonous, traits that make them undesirable for some people but ideal for the mentally challenged. The mentally disabled work on factory lines for many industries such as textile, plastics, computers, and foods. Their jobs typically consist of piece work, where they add a piece to an item as it goes by on a conveyor belt. They may also clean the factory floor or work in food services at a factory.
Agencies such as Goodwill, Quest and NuPath, specialize in finding employment for the mentally challenged. They may find help find work for an individual, or in some cases they may get a contract for providing jobs for larger companies. Goodwill in South Florida received a contract from a local spice company to pack spices for shipment. This contract allows the mentally disabled to work in a facility they are familiar with, while learning new skills and receiving a paycheck. NuPath teams up with Project Repat, which makes blankets and purses out of used T-shirts. The labor is completely done by the mentally challenged. The overall effort is a winning combination for both the environment and for the workers.
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