RFA’s Open House last Saturday was an amazing forum for educating the public about who we are, what we do, and why we are probably a whole lot different from what many thought. For example, we are not a “sheltered workshop.” We are not technically a “social enterprise.” We are not an “alternative school.” We are not isolated from our community. We hire people based on their qualifications, not whether or not they have autism. And our entire staff, consisting of long-term employees without disabilities, long-term employees with autism, and short-term participants who will be moving on because they are well-and better-suited to other types of work, is pretty interesting and, well, cool!
If you try to pigeon-hole us, quite frankly you can’t.
Yes, we are a business that happens to be a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that happens to be able to provide meaningful career training/transition services in an actual business environment to individuals with autism. And, yes, we provide opportunities for participants to generalize what is learned to other employment situations. And, yes, some of those other situations are here at the farm. (Where else can you combine agriculture, IT, production, design, retail, etc., in one business enterprise?) But we also link to the communities in which our autistic career training program participants live because our real mission is to find and support them in gaining meaningful paid work — with benefits, opportunities for career advancement, personal satisfaction, and so forth. All the things most everyone else wants in a job!
I was honored to be able to reinforce to visitors at our Open House that:
- Everyone with autism can work
- Anyone with autism can be valued as employees because of the contributions they make to their employers and co-workers
- It is not that difficult to hire someone with autism because the minor accommodations an employer may need (e.g., letting someone wear a hat or have an unconventional break schedule) are not that hard to make
- Employers who hire individuals with autism can get the support they need for those involved to succeed
- Having a diverse workforce improves everyone’s quality of life
Thank you to those who visited us for taking the time to come and learn about rose farming, autism, and best practices in career training for people with the autism label. And special thanks to those of you who expressed interest in collaborating on community employment opportunities! We will be in touch. In the meantime, if you have questions, feel free to contact me at 475-529-1759 or email@example.com.