The Arc of Greater Williamsburg has proudly provided support services to adults with developmental disabilities in our community since 1976. October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month and The Arc is excited to announce a new program we are calling Wheels4Work.
The Arc is there when the school bus stops coming
Young adults age out of special education at age 21. The Arc is there to help them transition by providing programs and activities for the rest of their lives. Evening programs include Fitness Classes, Arts & Culture activities, Lifelong Learning and Literacy programs, along with social and recreational activities 8-10 times each month. Since 2016, a day support program called Arc of Abilities has provided continuing education as well as life skills and vocational training.
The success of our day program was the impetus to provide more for our clients who have the hope and ability to be gainfully employed. We want to support them living their lives as independently as possible.
A New Kind of IEP: Individualized Employment Plan
The over-arching vision is to see each of our Arc clients live their lives to their full potential. While in school, our clients had Individualized Education Plans (IEP) and The Arc hopes to continue with our version of an IEP, an Individualized Employment Plan. Everyone has special abilities. We look at each individual and help them determine what they want to do and where they can be successful.
While we will always provide support services for all levels of ability, we strive to encourage our clients and caregivers to dream big and have hope for the future. We plan to partner more closely with our education system to assist in the transition process for students and prepare them for a brighter future once they leave high school. That could mean continuing their education in community college or welcoming them into our Wheels4Work program.
Wheels4Work includes four key components:
- The Arc advocates for all people with developmental disabilities.
- Partnerships with local businesses, i.e. Williamsburg Landing and Windsor-Meade Senior Living Communities, have provided job descriptions for positions open to well-trained applicants providing competitive wages plus benefits, for greater than part-time hours.
- Workforce development provides life skills instruction, employment readiness and training for specific jobs, then assists with the application process. The trainer/coach, serves as a liaison with Arc client and business partners.
- The lack of reliable transportation is the #1 detriment, across America, for people with disabilities to sustain meaningful employment. The Arc will include a transportation option as the final component to Wheels4Work.
As we prepare to launch this exciting new program, we truly believe that it will have life-changing consequences, not only for young adults coming out of our high schools but also for current Arc clients who have had limited opportunities or have never had the experience of being employed. It is important for our clients to remain active and engaged; when marginalized and left on the sidelines, they digress very quickly.
In addition, we believe that local businesses will also benefit by partnering with The Arc and providing job descriptions that can be incorporated into our curriculum and classroom training. Our goal is to prepare our clients for success.
When we build a better world for people with disabilities, we build a better world for all of us. For more information about The Arc, please visit www.thearcgw.org.