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Leading the Way: Communities and Businesses That Are Including People with Disabilities


It is a common misconception that the benefits of employing a person with a disability are outweighed by the cost. Yet, studies have found that disabled workers are not only good for culture, they’re good for the bottom line.

Similarly, children with special needs are some of the most marginalized populations around the world. This makes it difficult for them to have a normal childhood, attend school, and graduate from college, all of which impact their adult life.

Employing Adults with Disability

The U.S. Department of Labor found that workplace accommodations, such as liberalizing the dress code, allowing a person to sit instead of stand, or permitting a flexible work schedule, often cost the employer nothing to implement. However, providing such accommodations boosts morale, improves productivity, and helps retain valuable employees. This report by DePaul University examines the costs versus benefits of employing workers with disabilities.

Including Children with Special Needs

The benefits of inclusion and diversity are well understood, but often difficult to implement. Children and adolescents with disabilities need:

  • To be part of regular classrooms
  • To have reasonable accommodations
  • To be offered individualized support
  • To grow up in a fully inclusive academic and social environment

Here are some communities and businesses that are leading the way in including children and adults with special needs and disabilities:

Sassafras All Children’s Playground

This $2.3 million playground at Raleigh’s Laurel Hills Park is 3.5 acres of play heaven for children of all abilities. Conventional playground equipment such as swings and slides are complemented by unique disability-friendly elements such as a height-adjustable basketball court, activities featuring Braille, and a zip line with a modified seat.

The park is a godsend for parents of children with special needs who often find it challenging, or even impossible, to take their kids to the playground. The idea is to allow children who need assistance and those who don’t to play side-by-side. The importance of such inclusive playgrounds is reiterated by the sporting success of people with disabilities.

Sensory Room

Shannon International Airport in County Clare, Ireland, has launched a first-of-its-kind program to provide amenities and services for passengers with special needs. The departure lounge features a Sensory Room with cushioned play areas and soft lighting where children and young adults with special needs can relax. The airport also offers additional care to passengers with special needs from the check-in counter to the departure gate. The goal is to provide children with special needs and their families with more travel opportunities in greater comfort.

Bitty and Beau’s Coffee

This Wilmington, NC, coffee shop is run by people with developmental and intellectual disabilities. The shop offers a unique experience to customers and at the same time advocates for the acceptance and inclusion of people with disabilities. The idea behind the shop was to create a culture that values and celebrates diversity. The shop’s 40+ employees enjoy working with an amazing support team in a workplace with great vibes. Making and serving delicious cappuccinos and frappes gives them happiness and confidence.

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