Saturday, October 05, 2013

Disability Issues: I Work, Therefore I Am - When Work Is More Than Just a Job

Source: Open Society Foundations

When Work Is More Than Just a Job

by Tomislav Zaja

Why do we want to work? What does work mean to us? How do we contribute to society through our work?

People with intellectual disabilities demonstrate the simple but sometimes forgotten answers to these questions.

Although Croatian laws are not perfect, and there are many obstacles to employment for people with intellectual disabilities, a few years ago I filmed few of them while they packaged and wrapped products in warehouses of large companies as part of a “supported employment” program managed by the Association for Promoting Inclusion.

They might have at first appeared to be typical workers in a factory, but something was different. All of them were incredibly happy.

When I asked what made them so happy, they said it was the simple fact that they can work and get paid for it. They also said it was because they can socialize with other people. I asked others in the warehouse including the company’s manager what it’s like to work alongside people with intellectual disabilities. They told me that, thanks to these coworkers, they’ve become more satisfied as well.

Last year Gral Film made a documentary called I Work, Therefore I Am about the Association for Promoting Inclusion’s new Social Entrepreneurship Program, in which people with intellectual disabilities work as artists, designers, and farmers. Just as anyone else with talents or business ideas cannot realize their dreams without a good support network, people with disabilities need job coaches, mentors, and business partners. In this way, they become less dependent on the state and donor funding, and more independent and self-confident as individuals.

Watch I Work, Therefore I Am and see for yourself why work matters to everyone, including people with intellectual disabilities.

Gral Film is a grantee of the Open Society Foundations.