Capitol Correspondence - 06.17.19

WashPost Profiles Smithsonian Internship Program for People with Learning, Developmental Disabilities

Share this page

ANCOR is sharing this article by the Washington Post to raise awareness of opportunities for people with intellectual / developmental disabilities (I/DD) to obtain employment. Some of our members participate in placing individuals with Project SEARCH sites.

As shared by the Washington Post:

“Smith is one of seven young adults who graduated from Smithsonian’s Project SEARCH program this week. The year-long internship places high school students and recent graduates with learning and developmental disabilities, such as autism or Down syndrome, at sites like the National Museum of Natural History, the National Postal Museum, and the Office of Protection Services. Depending on where they’re placed, the interns may do archival work, data entry or manual labor — and they can rotate through up to three roles during the year to gain more experience.


The Smithsonian’s goal is to prepare the interns for full-time or part-time employment afterward, either at the institution or elsewhere. Smith, a part-time employee, works 30 hours per week.

Project SEARCH was founded in 1996 at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center as a school-to-work transition program for young people with disabilities, a population that struggles with finding work. In 2018, the unemployment rate for people with disabilities — physical, intellectual and emotional — was 8 percent compared with 3.7 percent for those without disabilities, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And the Brookings Institution reports that only ‘40 percent of adults with disabilities in their prime working years (ages 25-54) have a job, compared to 79 percent of all prime-age adults.’

Today, there are over 500 Project SEARCH host sites around the world that offer hands-on job training and classroom instruction to young people with needs. In the D.C. area, they include Embassy Suites and Capitol Hilton, the National Institutes of Health, and Montgomery County Government.

The Smithsonian became a Project SEARCH partner in 2013 and has graduated more than 50 interns from the program since. Twenty-seven of them now work at the institution full time or part time. Zachary Lynch, who was part of the first intern class, works digitizing collection records at the National Museum of Natural History, while Ernest Davis, also from the first class, works in the education department at the National Postal Museum answering visitors’ questions, among other things. Ninety-four percent of the interns admitted to the program at the Smithsonian have completed it.”