20 Jun Special Education School in Washington DC Trains Students for More Productive Work in the Mainstream Job MarketJune 20, 2016
By: Alexis Irving
When it comes to people with disabilities, a special education school in Washington DC is determined to expand the concept of inclusion from the classroom to the workplace.
The River Terrace Special Education Center is a school with a mission. Its entire campus is devoted to providing education and training to students from the second grade to the 12th, as well as young adults from age 18 to 21 with the full intent to prepare them for productive work in mainstream society.
It has long been documented that people with disabilities are often shunted sideways when it comes to finding livable and meaningful employment. Many of them end up in jobs like sweeping floors, greeting customers in front of supermarkets, or picking up trash in public parks. They are also not given opportunities to work alongside people without disabilities in everyday work environments because they are feared to be incapable of handling even the simplest tasks.
Most are also underpaid. In 2014, there was a report that thousands of disabled adults in Rhode Island were paid a measly $2.21 per hour for putting caps on bottles or stickers in boxes.
All this is what the River Terrace Special Education Center wants to confront and address. It trains its students with disabilities not only to read or write, but also to open their own checking accounts and perform work in various industries such as healthcare, hospitality and horticulture. The teachers acknowledge the difficulties that people with disabilities face when they enter the mainstream workforce, but it is precisely this that goads them to implement a curriculum that will give the students what they need to adjust and fit in better in the everyday workforce.
In the meantime, even as the school is focused on providing practical or vocational skills to its students, it also encourages its students if and when they can to pursue college degrees. At the core of the institution’s principles is the belief that everyone – given enough support and assistance-can become a productive and self-reliant member of society, able to build their own lives and make a living.