Penn-Mar Human Services

From Exclusion to Inclusion

By Gregory Miller

President/CEO Penn-Mar Human Services

There is a revolution taking place in our country. No, it has nothing to do with the recent presidential election but everything to do with how people with disabilities are participating and thriving in the work force. This movement is characterized by competitive and integrated employment taking place in our communities and it’s the wave of the future.

We refer to this phenomenon as the “inclusion revolution” and it’s a movement as exciting and explosive as the phrase implies.

Penn-Mar has a reputation in the human services field as being at the forefront of this initiative. We are often called upon to consult with other organizations to share our highly customized approach to employment in an integrated community setting and the long-term successful outcomes that we see and celebrate every day.

Our journey began several years ago when we began to strategically envision and pursue the employment model we wanted to create for our individuals. This required a major shift in thinking after years of offering many of the individuals with disabilities that we support work opportunities in what were then known as a “sheltered workshops.”

These “workshops” were large open rooms where people with disabilities were provided specific work tasks and earned a paycheck for their efforts.  It was often very good work but it took place in an environment that clearly set them apart from our community.  Recognizing a segregated setting was not appropriate or acceptable, we were determined to change our approach. And that is exactly what we’ve done, quite successfully.

Fortunately, this new paradigm has been embraced by others, including the Federal Government.  Companies like Penn-Mar are now partnering with the business community to train, supervise and find customized employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities who have the skills and desire to become part of a professional workforce.

We have dubbed our customized employment program “Project Invincible” because that‘s how our individuals feel when they set off for their jobs each day and return home at the end of a challenging day’s work.

As a result of this unique partnership, businesses are finding a motivated, ready workforce who approach their jobs with enthusiasm and dedication. And employees with disabilities feel valued and independent. It’s a winning combination for the workplace, the employees, and society-at-large.

As more people with disabilities become part of the world around them, they stand ready and willing to take on their next big assignment.

In short, they feel invincible.

On November 30, from 8:00 – 9:30 am, Penn-Mar Human Services and the Baltimore County Chamber of Commerce will co-host a forum in Sparks, Maryland entitled “From Exclusion to Inclusion” to educate business leaders about the availability of this Invincible Workforce. There is no charge to attend the forum, but space is limited. For more details or if interested in attending, please RSVP Kathy Rogers at kathyrogers@penn-mar.org