Individuals with developmental disabilities are full of untapped potential for jobs in the community.

Claire Hilty has been employed at the Church of the Redeemer United Methodist since July. There she vacuums the sanctuary, takes out the trash, cleans the bathrooms, makes the windows shine, wipes down tables and more. Neither she, nor her family, is quite sure they expected her to become employed so quickly, but both Hilty, 19, and her family are relieved she doesn’t have long hours at home alone anymore or at a day center, which isn’t her thing. Her employment is one small part of the slowly—but profoundly—changing landscape for individuals with developmental disabilities in the United States.

A 1999 U.S. Supreme Court case became a catalyst for change when it was decided that segregating those with developmental disabilities in residential and occupational life is akin to saying they are unable to, or unworthy of participating in community life. In 2016, there were an estimated 7.37 million people in the U.S. who had some form of intellectual or developmental disability, which is a term covering a diverse group of conditions that show up during development. Now, a new wave of young adults with developmental disabilities is graduating high school, leaving the services they received as children and, with their families, facing the next phase of their lives. As addressed in Olmstead v. L.C., few jobs are readily available to an individual with a developmental disability other than in sheltered workshop settings—a segregated form of work for individuals who may have barriers to job performance.

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