Social Economy and Developmental Disabilities: An Employment Option that Promotes a Form of Authentic Work and Fosters Social Inclusion
Readhead, Anne E.
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Typical employment options for people with developmental disabilities are insufficient. Most employment opportunities that are community-based provide typical workplace and geographical inclusion but tend not to support social inclusion and "belonging". This study explored the innovative employment alternative of social businesses and considered this form of employment for persons with a developmental disability as a viable avenue for meaningful work and social inclusion. A total of six business partners with a developmental disability were interviewed; two partners from three separate worker owned businesses. The partners' descriptions of their job and their workplace composed the interpretative findings. The social businesses provided an avenue for this group of people who tend to be segregated in isolated workshops or marginalized in mainstream work environments and who feel a sense of being "outsiders" to participate in meaningful work in community settings. This group of partners described their job as authentic "work" and discussed the many skills and the work ethic learned from their employment opportunity. In addition to the instrumental aspects of the job, the partners also discussed the group autonomy and self-determination of being their own "bosses". The partners confidently expressed feeling valued, understood in the context of others with similar life experiences, attached to the workplace and connected to a larger community as important outcomes of their businesses. These criteria of social inclusion (Hall, 2010) were complemented by teamwork, friendship and ultimately, with a feeling of being genuine "insiders". Replication of this innovative employment model would be recommended for groups of marginalized people with DD in other geographic areas.