At NorthTown Mall, workers who need wheelchairs earn money delivering food to store clerks who can’t get away to eat.
At Hewlett-Packard in the Spokane Valley, a man who can’t use his arms and a woman who can’t use her feet team up to trim wires for electronic components.
In Seattle, a blind woman is paid to fold silverware into napkins at a restaurant.
These are just a few examples of how people with disabilities are capable of holding down jobs.
More than 100 people are gathered at Cavanaugh’s River Inn in Spokane this weekend for a biannual convention of The Arc of Washington, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping those with developmental disabilities.
Leaders at the convention said the growing number of people with disabilities who hold down jobs and pay taxes is an outgrowth of the mainstreaming movement that started some 20 years ago.
They said their goal is to continue finding ways for people with disabilities to live relatively normal lives.
Between 600 and 700 people who are mentally retarded or suffer from another neurological disorder are holding down jobs in Spokane County, said Ronald Kurtz, associate director for The Arc of Spokane.
“Persons of developmental disabilities have the ability to function in society,” Kurtz said.
Many of them live independently, either in group homes or in individual dwellings, but often need someone to help them with budgeting or household chores, he said.
The Arc of Washington is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year.
A lot of progress has been made toward changing attitudes about the disabled, said Sue Elliott, executive director of the state Arc.
“For so many years they’ve been treated as second-class citizens,” she said.
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