Why I Started A Company to Hire Adults With Intellectual Disabilities

Why I Started A Company to Hire Adults With Intellectual Disabilities

Welcome to Our World Designs, where we value inclusion above all, and are actively working every day to create a world that we want to live in. One where everyone is not only allowed to exist as their authentic selves, but where they are valued and encouraged to contribute. 

My name is Jenna and a few months ago I started this company to hire adults with intellectual disabilities, including Down syndrome and autism. 

shop our website now and find products created, packaged, and shipped by our employees

About Me: 

I am currently registered as an occupational therapist in the US and UK, and licensed to practice in Florida and Colorado. My background includes work at schools, hospitals, and community clinics, where I have worked with clients with a wide range of diagnosis, including autism, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, OCD, and ADHD. I was born in Miami, received a degree in Psychology at UCF in Orlando, went to London for my masters, and have since returned to Miami. 

My brother David, born with Down syndrome, is two years younger than me and a huge inspiration for both my career path and the founding of this company. 

My Passion: 

During my final year of grad school in London, I completed a dissertation on the quality of life of adults with Down syndrome. I conducted interviews with participants and asked them questions pertaining to their satisfaction with different areas of their life, including independence, job/ volunteer work, exercise, and friends. 

Findings showed that when given appropriate opportunities, their quality of life was often even higher than that of their peers without a disability. Yes, Down syndrome can come with motor impairments and health difficulties, but as adults, this didn’t seem to lower their quality of life much, or at all. Rather, it was the community’s reaction and effort to include them that were the contributing factors. 

Programs to provide intervention/ academic learning, volunteer placements, affordable transportation, assistance with daily living skills, community events at which to socialize- all of these were the things that truly made a difference in their overall happiness and life satisfaction. 

It’s a trend that certainly applies in the US as well. Over and over again, parents/ teachers/ clients/ caregivers all tell me the same thing: they need more resources and community support. 

Children may be able to receive therapy, participate in after school activities, and make friends within the classroom. But once these same adults graduate out of high school, their opportunities often become much more limited, especially those who struggle with verbal communication, or may require extra training to master a certain skill. 

So, to quote Seinfeld

Government Spending, The DATA Act, and the End of Yada Yada

...I started Our World Designs. 

The Company: 

We currently have six employees and are hoping to eventually expand and add more. 

check out our employee bios here

As the owner, I work with parents and job coaches to help transfer the skills employees learn at work into their daily lives and other activities/ employment.

We make a variety of products, including t-shirts, totes, mugs, and stickers. The process of creating the designs is purposely repetitive, allowing the employees to practice the same steps each day and become comfortable making them on their own. Employees also take pictures for our website, upload content to social media, and reply to emails. They are continually learning to read instructions, interact with their peers, operate a computer, develop fine motor control, and other sills that will apply to any future jobs they hold. 

Many of our products contain messages promoting inclusion and a better world. Each order comes with a picture of one of our employees and a bio to share a bit about themselves with the customer. 

Plus, we recently launched a Patreon account for those who want to support us behind the scenes, which includes a monthly newsletter with more information about us. We want to not only provide opportunities for our employees, but also raise awareness and help others get involved in our mission. 

I truly believe that the world is a better place when we are all able to participate in it. 

 

Moving Forward: 

I am so encouraged by the support we have received, by other organizations who are doing amazing things, by legislation that has been passed to help the disability community, and by the kindness of strangers. We still have a long way to go, but we are moving forward in regards to understanding of disabilities and needs. I hope that the world we pass on to the next generation is one of acceptance and opportunity. 

Together, we have an opportunity to design that future world, and take actions every day to create a world that we want to live in. 

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