The fact that meaningful employment provides a sense of pride, self-satisfaction and independence is well established. In fact, the right to work was enshrined in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, and that right lies at the heart of the state of North Carolina’s commitment to Inclusion Works.
Inclusion Works is both a philosophy and a North Carolina state initiative. As a philosophy, Inclusion Works is based on the presumption that individuals with disabilities, including intellectual and developmental disabilities, can be successful in competitive integrated employment when provided with reasonable accommodations.
Competitive integrated employment refers to regular jobs in our communities, where the individual with a disability works alongside co-workers without disabilities, customers and the general public. It also means that people with disabilities get paid the same and get the same benefits as other people without disabilities doing the same job.
The state is committed to providing the ongoing support needed so that people with disabilities can overcome barriers and secure jobs that are a good match for their talents and skills.
Brittany Ellis worked with the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services (DVRS) to land her first job. She was 20 when she started her first job at a daycare center. While she enjoyed being around kids, it wasn’t the best fit and Ellis worked with her VR Counselor to explore opportunities in retail sales and she accepted a job at Walgreens. After six years with the company, circumstances changed and new opportunities presented themselves. Brittany returned to the DVRS team, and they helped her find a new job.
Today, she works full-time at a Smithfield thrift store operated by Johnson County Industries. She’s been accepting donations, working at the register and stocking shelves for six years – and she’s a leading voice of the inclusion movement. Every Monday Brittany leads her Peer Mentoring group that meets at Johnson County Industries where she shares what she’s learned and encourages her group to develop their skills and to act as their own advocates.
“Everyone has their own talents and gifts and it’s important for everyone to contribute their abilities,” she said. “It’s important that we don’t limit ourselves.”
Brittany never doubted that she’d go to work after high school.
“I always figured I would work. My older siblings worked, and I just figured that I would too,” she said. “When I was getting older I was wondering how the whole job thing was going to work. I was able to go to work because I had the right support from DVRS. They helped me find the right fit and they supported me in finding jobs.”
Through working with her counselor and the DVRS staff, Brittany was able to identify her strengths and target jobs where she would be a good fit.
“Society has a view of people with disabilities, but everybody has things they’re good at or not so good at,” she said. “We can all contribute and add something special.”
These days Brittany looks forward to meeting new people at work – and seeing the next cool thing that will be donated to the JCI Thrift Store. But she’s also focused on the bigger picture and the benefits of having a job.
“It gives me a purpose, independence and the money to do the things I like to do like going to concerts,” she said. “The last show I went to was Pentatonix, and I also went to the Clay Aiken and Ruben Studdard show – it was amazing!”