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Employment First at Vinfen

phoebe-goodman-webOctober was National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). “NDEAM is a national campaign that raises awareness about disability employment issues and celebrates the many and varied contributions of America’s workers with disabilities.”

Vinfen’s disability employment services values are very much in line with Massachusetts’ Employment First initiative and the national trend of increased focus on providing community based employment opportunities for all adults with disabilities. This initiative believes that all working-age adults should be employed in the community. The ideal situation is competitive employment, where the worker receives equal wages and benefits as any other non-disabled employee and is paid by the employer.

At Vinfen we have many competitive employment success stories to share, but John’s* story is a great example of what can be accomplished with high motivation and team work. John came to Vinfen’s Employment Training Center less than a year ago. Though he hadn’t worked in some time, he was highly motivated to work a full-time schedule. He had experience working in restaurants in a variety of positions. I had made a connection with Taza Chocolate in Somerville more than a year earlier, so when I reached out to them again in August, I was pleasantly surprised at how receptive they were to maintaining the partnership. John interviewed successfully and was hired in September as a full-time seasonal packaging assistant.

His supervisors and coworkers have been great natural supports for John at work. Taza Chocolate has gone above and beyond in creating accommodations to ensure that he can continue to be successful and integrate into the work environment. The lockers at the factory have difficult combination locks; this was John’s one major barrier to independence at work. Taza Chocolate allowed him to have a locked bin to store his backpack and change of clothes. Taza Chocolate has also allowed a job coach, Melissa, to be an onsite support for John. Melissa has been there since the beginning with John. She has gotten the opportunity to see him grow in his position and develop relationships with his coworkers and supervisors. “Everyone gets along with him so well. They are teaching him all the different jobs in the factory. It would have been easy for them to isolate him and have him build boxes all day; instead they train him on everything! He knows more jobs than some of the other workers!” Since John has been hired, he has been trained by Ways2Go and now independently commutes to and from work daily on the MBTA. He is an exceptional employee and a great example of the importance of workers with disabilities in the community.

*Name has been changed