The State of America’s Direct Support Workforce Crisis 2022

The longstanding direct support workforce crisis, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, has led to closures of critically needed services and a denial of access to community-based supports.
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Connections - 10.31.22

Bright, Well-Educated, Strong Work History…But Still Seeking Meaningful Employment: Curtis’ Story

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In recognition of National Disability Employment Awareness Month, we interviewed Curtis Glover, who holds a Bachelor’s degree in Game Art and Development and is an accomplished graphic artist, public speaker, fundraiser, photographer, disability advocate, and Shaolin Kempo Black Belt. He has a video game collection that dates back to the 1970s and all of the games still work.

Recently Curtis completed an internship at an augmented reality (AR) technology firm and produced over 150 different 3-D models. Others in the internship produced, on average, 20-30 models. His graphic artwork is featured on the t-shirts for Chaos and Kindness, Recycled Percussion’s Emmy-nominated TV show, which focuses on giving back to others and making a difference around the world. Curtis is intelligent, well-educated, easy to talk to, impeccably groomed, and has a strong employment history in retail. Yet he is still struggling to find meaningful employment in his field of study. Why is this?

It may be because Curtis lives with Autism—but he is quick to point out that he describes himself as “living with a different ability.”

According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics August 2022 News Release, there are 11.2 million job openings in the United States, yet many people with disabilities are still struggling to secure and maintain meaningful employment. Why is this and what can be done?

Many talented and highly qualified people with disabilities continue to be shut out of the workplace because of barriers including a lack of education and awareness about how best to support people with disabilities in the workplace, outdated ideas about the impact of potential accommodations that might be needed, unfounded concerns about productivity and unconscious disability bias.

According to Curtis, employers could begin to break these barriers down by starting with three basic considerations for developing and maintaining a competent, diverse, creative, profitable, and committed workforce:

First, consider how screening practices that use artificial intelligence (AI) can negatively impact and inadvertently screen out people with certain disabilities. Curtis has submitted over 80 applications in response to online job postings for which he is qualified and received only two responses.

Next, support employees living with Autism by providing kind, respectful, timely, and concrete feedback, and, when necessary, recommendations for how they can improve their job performance. This is particularly important because success in the workplace is highly dependent upon so-called “soft“ skills and, according to Curtis, “social skills and the ability to ‘read’ people can be hard for people living with Autism.”

Finally, Curtis would like employers to simply “get to know me and give me a chance to share my skills.” In his own words, “When I set my mind to something, I focus on it until it is done. I am loyal and will work hard to meet your company’s goals”.

There are millions of people like Curtis who live with Autism and are actively seeking meaningful employment. If you are an employer looking to hire some great talent, why not reach out during National Disability Employment Awareness Month to explore how people with autism can contribute to your company’s success?

About Curtis

If you’d like to get to know Curtis and learn about how his digital artistry and graphic design skills could benefit your organization, you can reach out to him via email at [email protected].

Lorene Reagan, RN, MS, is Director of Public Relations for IntellectAbility.