Why Work?

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My job is to find community employment for adults with disabilities. I work for an agency in the Chicagoland suburbs and when talking with others about what I do, I frequently get asked, "Why would your clients want to work? They receive disability benefits and don’t have to do anything for it." This comment always troubles me. People with disabilities have hopes, dreams and goals for their future, just like anybody else.

People with intellectual disabilities have traditionally not been viewed as valued employees. Times have changed. Not only are people with disabilities working in the community, they are participating in recreational programs and even giving back through volunteering. They are proving to be reliable, responsible and enthusiastic contributors in all they do.

The list of reasons for all individuals, including those with disabilities, to be out in the workforce is long and convincing.
 
  1. It raises self-esteem.
     
    1. Working to be part of the greater workforce in the community with others and completing your tasks successfully makes you feel good. Don’t you feel good when your desk is free of your to-do list? It’s the same for them.

    2. A day of work makes you feel like you accomplished something and can feel good about yourself.

  2. It gives meaning to their days.
     
    1. Everyone wants to feel useful; those with disabilities are no exception. By working, they are contributing to their community and, very possibly, to their households.

    2. We all want to have a purpose to our days and our lives.

  3. Adults without disabilities are expected to work.
     
    1. It should make no difference for those with a disability or not. Part of adulthood is taking responsibility.

    2. Many people with disabilities desire to learn how to manage their money, transport themselves to work, participate in recreational activities and live as independently as possible.

  4. Finally, having money means having choices.
     
    1. Everybody wants the ability to make choices. People with disabilities are no exception. Without money, their opportunities can be limited.

    2. Once they begin receiving a paycheck, they can make decisions more independently on how they would like to spend their money.

Given all that working can do for them, the question should be, "Why Not Work?"