|Bridge Food Co-operative--Creating meaningful employment opportunities for the disabled|
People with disabilities desire freedom and choices just like everyone else. But there is a problem; many of them cannot find jobs. It is not that they are lazy or incapable; rather, many employers will not give them the chance. But the reality is, if they are placed in the right position and receive adequate training, they can be very successful employees.
Bridge Food Co-op provides a framework and funding source for the creation of meaningful employment opportunities for individuals with developmental disabilities. Bridge would fulfill an existing need in the community by providing organic produce and locally sourced items. Bridge would also partner with local community supported agriculture (CSA) organizations to provide a central point of distribution. Through the positions available at Bridge, employees with disabilities would be given the opportunity to interact with community members while gaining beneficial work experience.
The key to the Bridge employment system lies in the unique approach to placement and training. Traditionally, individuals are matched with jobs on the basis of availability. However, with Bridge, a placement specialist guides the individual through a series of activities which assess interests, goals, and skills to ensure each employee is placed in a position appropriate for him or her. Once the placement has been made, the employee is assigned a mentor and also provided with a training toolkit. Often, learning new skills and adapting to a different environment can be quite daunting for individuals with disabilities. For this reason, the toolkit gives employees the opportunity to practice work related skills at home and also fosters parent involvement in the learning process.