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If you’re an adult with a disability, finding steady employment can be an uphill battle.

Due to some outdated, problematic stereotypes, the unemployment rate for disabled adults in the United States is nearly 10% — double the rate of those without a disability.

Those numbers are unacceptable, and one company has aspirations to make them a thing of the past.


Aspire works to support disabled adults through workforce development programs and creating job opportunities.

All photos are courtesy of Aspire.

Aspire works with adults who have many different disabilities — such as autism, those who use a wheelchair, and adults with learning disabilities — to develop several important work skills that can be used in different industries. Aspire CEO Jim Kales says it’s a positive step toward improving the job environment for disabled adults.

“While Aspire aims to lower the disability unemployment rate and include people with disabilities into our workforces, we never approach employers out of a sense of 'obligation' or moral duty,” Kales writes in an email. “We view each of our employer partnerships as a win for all parties.”

Through two ventures — the Career Academy and CoffeeWorks — adults with disabilities learn sustainable job skills and use them to support others with disabilities around the world.

Aspire supports multiple ventures to support people living with disabilities.

But how do they do it?

In Aspire’s Career Academy, students are able to dive into their personal career interests while gaining important workforce training. The students receive hands-on training from experts skilled at working with people with a variety of disabilities. To keep services effective, the Career Academy focuses on six career areas that have historically been particularly beneficial for students and graduates.

"We’ve identified six specific sectors that adults with disabilities have statistically excelled in and train participants in those tracks: warehousing and distribution, big-box retail, office and IT, culinary, hospitality, and fitness center administration," Kales says of the program structure.

Their strategy is working in the favor of the students they serve. More than 90% of academy graduates are employed full-time.

Some of them end up at CoffeeWorks — an Aspire-led organization that employs people with developmental disabilities. In addition, 100% of the net proceeds supports kids and adults with disabilities. In essence, they’re breaking down stereotypes and barriers one coffee bean at a time.

“We decided to explore opportunities in the coffee industry because, in essence, coffee brings people together, and that’s what our mission is all about — inclusion for people with disabilities,” Kales writes.

To be an outsider looking through the purview of stereotypes, the success rate might be surprising. But according the Kales, it’s exactly what they expected. Numerous reports show that adults with disabilities often excel in many fields, particularly those with creative or repetitive tasks.

"Hiring people with disabilities makes good business sense — 87% of Americans say they prefer to patronize businesses that hire people with disabilities," Kales writes. “Additionally, hiring people with disabilities helps companies increase their retention rates, saving them the time and cost accrued with employee turnover, as people with disabilities have higher than average retention rates and are proven to be dependable and loyal in their roles.”

For many of the students and employees, the work is empowering, valuable, and important for positive life trajectories.

With real employment opportunities, adults living with disabilities are able to have a more equitable chance to engage with the economy and participate in common societal practices. Society is noticing how awesome it is too.

"[We’re] seeing a wave of interest from employers seeking to hire people with developmental disabilities," Kales writes. "Twenty-one companies (including several Fortune 500’s) have reached out to us in the past six months to start their disability hiring journey."

It’s clear that giving everyone a fair chance at employment opportunities is a win-win for all.

"It comes back to Aspire’s fundamental belief that when we include people of all abilities into our communities, everyone is better for it," Kales adds. "We believe that when people with disabilities are included into our workforces, companies and communities prosper."

Learn more about Aspire's Career Academy below:

10/10. The Mayyas dance.

We can almost always expect to see amazing acts and rare skills on “America’s Got Talent.” But sometimes, we get even more than that.

The Mayyas, a Lebanese women’s dance troupe whose name means “proud walk of a lioness,” delivered a performance so mesmerizing that judge Simon Cowell called it the “best dance act” the show has ever seen, winning them an almost instant golden buzzer.

Perhaps this victory comes as no surprise, considering that the Mayyas had previously won “Arab’s Got Talent” in 2019 and competed on “Britain’s Got Talent: The Champions.” But truly, it’s what motivates them to take to the stage that’s remarkable.

“Lebanon is a very beautiful country, but we live a daily struggle," one of the dancers said to the judges just moments before their audition. Another explained, “being a dancer as a female Arab is not fully supported yet.”

Nadim Cherfan, the team’s choreographer, added that “Lebanon is not considered a place where you can build a career out of dancing, so it’s really hard, and harder for women.”

Still, Cherfan shared that it was a previous “AGT” star who inspired the Mayyas to defy the odds and audition anyway. Nightbirde, a breakout singer who also earned a golden buzzer before tragically passing away in February 2021 due to cancer, had told the audience, “You can't wait until life isn't hard anymore before you decide to be happy.” The dance team took the advice to heart.

For the Mayyas, coming onto the “AGT” stage became more than an audition opportunity. Getting emotional, one of the dancers declared that it was “our only chance to prove to the world what Arab women can do, the art we can create, the fights we fight.”

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