Pathfinder Village, an open-access community for individuals with Down syndrome and other developmental disabilities is observing October as National Down Syndrome Awareness Month and National Disability Employment Awareness Month by engaging area employers on workforce issues as they pertain to differently-abled employees.

Working with Summer Field School Fellow Katrina Judicke ’20 of the Upstate Institute at Colgate University, Hamilton, Pathfinder Village conducted a pilot survey last summer of area businesses to gauge interest in hiring individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities (I/DD).

On her project, Ms. Judicke said, “In general, individuals with disabilities are employed at lower rates than the general population, and the rate for individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities is even lower than that.… An important aspect of this survey will not be from the results, but from the conversation it creates. By distributing the survey, I hope that communication between employers and the disabilities community will become more open, and genuine strides towards improving employment opportunities for people with disabilities can be made.”

Pathfinder Village administrators recently shared survey results to members of the Otsego County and Cooperstown Chambers of Commerce. Responses from businesses indicated:

· 80% of respondents said hiring individuals with I/DD would improve a business’ image.

· 85% indicated hiring those with I/DD would increase workplace diversity.

· 65% thought hiring adults with I/DD would increase team satisfaction at a workplace.

· Nearly 90% indicated hiring people with I/DD is in the best interest of area communities.

With these positives, respondents also indicated there are perceived barriers to employing adults with cognitive impairments:

· 85% said they were concerned if workers with I/DD would be able to complete job tasks satisfactorily.

· Over 85% thought that additional supervision would be required for a worker with I/DD.

· Anecdotally, other employers expressed concerns about workers’ hours and minimum wage requirements.

Ms. Judike’s pilot survey had a 79 percent completion rate with 68 respondents.