Letter: Good business | PostIndependent.com

Letter: Good business

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, and Ascendigo Autism Services in Carbondale would like to draw attention to a very serious but often overlooked economic disparity that affects us all.

Although autism has steadily increased in recent decades, affecting an estimated 1 in 68 children in the U.S., the unemployment rate for people with autism hovers somewhere around 80 percent. Further compounding the issue, over 75 percent say they want to and/or are able to work. For those individuals with autism who do have jobs, more than half report underemployment or their skill level being higher than their job utilizes.

Fortunately, people with autism looking to find and maintain jobs, or employers looking to hire someone with special needs have tools at their disposal. Ascendigo’s Vocational Program, with support from Colorado’s Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, can provide resources for people that might be ready, willing and able to work, but still need an extra hand. DVR even provides hiring incentives such as tax breaks for employers and wage reimbursement for their employee’s first month on the job.

Here in Carbondale, businesses such as Phat Thai, Sopris Crossfit, Aloha Cyclery, Town, Sustainable Settings Farm, KDNK and Heritage Park Assisted Living have all offered employment opportunities to Ascendigo participants who have proven themselves not only capable, but in many cases exceed all expectations. With reasonable accommodations on the employer’s part, these young people’s dedication to work, attention to detail, strict punctuality and friendly disposition can make them model employees with, in many cases, a lifelong commitment to steady, competitive, gainful employment.

The town of Carbondale has embraced the autism community and their fight for equal opportunities, but we still have a long way to go. If you or someone you know is on the spectrum and looking for work, or if you have a business looking to add some neurodiversity to your staff, please contact Ascendigo’s Vocational Department by emailing mzoller@ascendigo.org or visit ascendigo.org. Together we can work to bring down the unemployment epidemic and change lives for the better.

Mark Zoller

Ascendigo Austism Services

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