COLUMBUS, Ohio — March is Developmental Disability Awareness month and while the world often overlooks the potential of people with disabilities, there are so many reasons not to.
The nonprofit organization Boundless Community Pathways works toward building a world that realizes the unlimited potential of all people, including those in the developmental disability community.
It can start with gainful employment for all. Boundless works to match people with employers willing to give an opportunity to someone with challenges, like 39-year-old Ian Freece.
Freece works at The Flag Lady Flag Store in Clintonville. The store opens daily at 10 a.m. but Freece is there early each day. He’s taking care of business well before the customers arrive.
“I get the floor all ready, do the trash, do the bathroom,” Freece said. “Get it all ready to go.”
Freece has worked at the flag store for nearly 13 years. He will celebrate his 13th work anniversary in April.
“It feels great to own my own money,” Freece told 10TV.
Freece has a developmental disability. But it doesn’t affect his ability to be a good employee. In fact, he’s proven to be one of The Flag Lady’s most valuable players.
“He has an outstanding work ethic and he’s always pleasant to work with,” says Dakota Merz, a manager at the store. “Ian can make you laugh even when you’re having the worst day. He always brings a positive light to the company.”
Melissa Engle is with Boundless Community Pathways. She said there is an incredible untapped workforce out there and all they need is an opportunity.
“Some employers feel that someone with a developmental disability may not have the skills to do what they need,” Engle says. “But it’s a broad range of individuals and there’s work out there for everyone.”
Engle would like to see more employers follow The Flag Lady and consider hiring someone with a disability. Merz agrees and says it can be a win-win for both the employer and the employee.
“It brings a different perspective and I think representation is very important,” says Merz. “I just think it’s important to show representation in every work field.”
Each one of us has boundless potential. So, it’s time to look past an individual’s perceived disability and recognize their capability.
“If I can get this job on my own, they can do,” Freece said.
Are you an employer willing to give an opportunity to someone from the developmental disability community? If so, you can contact Boundless by going to their website here.