Among all the unemployed, those with mental retardation and mental illness have the greatest problems gaining employment. Individuals with these types of disabilities face negative stereotypes and social barriers that are very strong. The goal of this pilot program is to establish a way for this group of people to get and keep permanent jobs.
The program is based on the "Job Coach" model of vocational rehabilitation practiced for many years in the USA. In this model, properly trained coaches help individuals with disabilities overcome their fear of working. By getting to know their interests and abilities, job coaches first work with their clients to identify the best type of job placement. Next, the coaches look for job vacancies suitable for their clients. The job coach advocates for the clients with the employer, emphasizing their strengths and abilities, not their disabilities. After the individuals are hired, the job coach begins a critical function, training the new employees at the job site. The job coach is responsible for teaching each client the job duties until he/she can perform them adequately without assistance. The job coach also helps the individual learn how to get to and from work safely on their own.
The American experience demonstrates that adults with mental retardation and psychiatric disabilities become more independent, develop new skills and relationships and have an improved quality of life when working in a regular job and receiving the proper types of support.
The professionals who designed and are now implementing this program are deeply committed to overcoming the barriers to people with disabilities. We believe that individuals with mental retardation and psychiatric illnesses should be active members of the community, living and working side by side with those without disabilities. With the goodwill and support of all interested governmental and non-governmental organizations, employers, as well as individuals with disabilities and their families, this pilot program will successfully address these long standing problems.