LETTER: People with disabilities have skills to offer
To the editor:
For those who think people with disabilities should be hidden away somewhere, I have news for you: This group is becoming more integrated in society every day, and we have many people to thank.
There are service provider centers, like Alexandria Opportunity Center and Douglas County Developmental Achievement Center, which assist people with disabilities with work, training and recreational options. Then there are employers — companies and organizations that give people a chance to prove themselves, whether working in the community or through a center-based option. Our state organization recently recognized a dozen examples as "Outstanding Disability Employers."
There are also staff members, many direct support professionals who pour their heart and soul into making life better for this population. And, most importantly, there are families. Their support, guidance and love simply cannot be replaced.
All of these know that people with disabilities have something to offer to society — skills and talents, and often a great attitude that rivals some of the best people you know. Still, they don't get much attention, even though they make up between 7 and 8 percent of Minnesotans. As the largest minority group, their rate of unemployment is four to five times that of the general population.
In our service world, we refer to people with disabilities as individuals. That communicates that they deserve dignity, respect and some basic assistance to make their lives better. Would you join with me and thank an employer, family or service provider today? Every smile and demonstration of gratitude makes a difference!
President of Minnesota Organization for Habilitation and Rehabilitation
Executive director for Alexandria Opportunities Center