Every March, Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month seeks to raise awareness and advocacy for the inclusion of people with disabilities in all facets of society. It also seeks to bring attention to the barriers that many people with disabilities still face in connecting to the communities in which they live.
Sixty years ago, AtWork! was born with the mission to serve people with disabilities and empower them to be productive, integrated, and contributing members of their communities. Today, AtWork! serves more than 400 people with intellectual and developmental disabilities across three counties in Washington state in getting good jobs, increasing community connection, as well as successfully transitioning to life after high school.
Through Transition Programs, Community Inclusion and Supported Employment, AtWork! empowers people with disabilities to obtain and maintain employment, whilst also connecting to their communities.
By collaborating directly with employers, school districts, and community partners, AtWork! builds and reinforces true inclusivity for people with disabilities. By providing coaching where needed and supporting businesses and communities to create opportunity, AtWork! breaks down the barriers of society to prove that people with disabilities deserve equal rights, equal pay, equal access and true equal opportunity.
Our business partners drive community participation. AtWork!’s “Champions of Inclusion” event annually recognizes small, medium and large businesses for their commitment to creating life-changing opportunities and experiences for people with disabilities. Last year, for the first time and in honor of the event’s 50th anniversary, AtWork! recognized three champions across King, Snohomish, and Spokane counties for their inclusion and support of essential employees throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. Those champions, Microsoft, Canyon Creek Cabinet Co. and Hello Sugar, serve as pillars of disability inclusion in their communities.
For the past 60 years AtWork! has been innovating and advocating with and on behalf of people with disabilities. As a nationally recognized leader in community integrated employment, AtWork! was honored when President Biden appointed Chris Brandt, CEO of AtWork! to the AbilityOne Commission as a citizen commissioner. Her experiences supporting people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to obtain competitive integrated employment and demonstrating its success will influence federal contract providers to create more job opportunities with fair and equitable wages.
“Together, with the Biden administration’s commitment to equity for people with disabilities,” Brandt says, “I believe we will effective positive change that creates more job opportunities within the government contracting sector and beyond.”
Since 1962, AtWork! has undergone quite the transformation, AtWork! has witnessed the introduction of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, which prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, and supported the Working Age Adult Policy of 2004, which states the importance of community-based integrated employment in realizing full citizenship and a pathway working toward gainful employment.
Two years later, we embraced this idea and began the process of closing our programs that segregated people with disabilities. In 2015, the transformation to integrated community employment was complete and the final program closed its doors.
In 2013 we expanded into Snohomish County and again to Spokane County in 2018. AtWork! continues its efforts in advocacy by employing two self-advocates who have been instrumental in recent policy work, including the official end of subminimum wages in Washington state in 2021. AtWork! has seen 60 years of growth and success and continues to seek out new, innovative ideas to better serve people with disabilities into the future.
AtWork!’s vision of the future is clear. Everyone has the capacity to work and there is a place for a person with disabilities in every business. Workplaces are inclusive by principle and see the talents and skills people with disabilities bring to the organization.
Join us in celebrating AtWork!’s 60th Anniversary this year, by either sharing your story or beginning your journey with us.