Changing Communities

/ March 8, 2021

What Is a Changing Community?

Communities are an important player in increasing access to employment opportunities for young people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). Young people can contribute to their surrounding communities in positive ways, particularly when they feel empowered and supported. Communities benefit from having young people with IDD thrive as active members. Communities are changed for the better when all citizens feel like they have full access to employment opportunities.

Why Is It Important to Change My Community?

Many people do not understand or stop to think much about the term disability. From the outside, disability is often viewed as an individual flaw or problem. However, disability is a natural part of the human experience, something that will affect the vast majority of us directly or indirectly at some point in our lives. When people with disabilities are not given opportunities for meaningful employment, the considerable talents and resources they have go to waste. If more young people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are working, they will have more resources to contribute. Not only will they be making their own money, they will help their community flourish.

How Can I Change My Community?

Different communities have different needs. What works for one community might not work for another. Communities can begin to change simply by having a conversation about what they can do to support young people with IDD in becoming successfully employed. In fact, TennesseeWorks has held Community Conversations across the state to jumpstart these conversations. Community Conversations have been held in Jackson, Lawrence, Memphis, Murfreesboro, Chattanooga, and Greeneville.

Where Can I Learn More About Changing My Community?

Community conversations are creative and engaging ways of bringing together a variety of community members to generate both ordinary and unique solutions to a key challenge facing their city or county—the limited opportunities people with disabilities have to share their talents in the workplace. The broad cross-section of each community who attended was asked to share their perspectives on the resources, supports, programs and opportunities in their community that could be drawn upon to expand employment opportunities for young people with disabilities. The TennesseeWorks Partnership has held numerous Community Conversations across the state of Tennessee since the summer of 2013. Click here to learn more! 

Community Conversation Strategies

Read through a sample of ideas generated at the six Community Conversations:

  • Host a job fair targeted for employees with disabilities and companies open to hiring
  • Share success stories through media outlets like radio, newspaper, and social media sites
  • Employ individuals with disabilities to manage community gardens producing food for a local farmers market using the vacant lots in the community
  • Offer professional development for school counselors on how to inform families of available resources
  • Focus on matching students’ skill sets with promising jobs and coaching them while they’re on the job to make sure it is a lasting match
  • Designate the chamber of commerce as the central location for housing resources and services in the community
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