People with Developmental Disabilities Find Success in the Workplace
Sometimes if an obstacle can be removed from someone’s work life, their whole career path seems to smooth out ahead of them. That’s the case with Tim Hyatt. On the job, he is part of the group that keeps Okemos Public Schools’ classrooms and facilities clean. Hyatt works for the Peckham team. This Michigan-based nonprofit is a vocational rehabilitation company whose goal is to help people with disabilities thrive at work, and in their communities. Like Hyatt, nearly 34% of Peckham’s environmental services team has some kind of developmental disability.
Hyatt is one of more than 180,000 people in Michigan who have a developmental disability. While each person’s situation is unique, there are many shared challenges when it comes to finding – and keeping – a job.
Hyatt had several jobs before he joined Peckham. He did stints as an auto mechanic, on a construction crew, he did siding work and even did shifts on a farm. But his disability made learning to read a struggle. When his employers discovered that, it was often part of the reason those jobs ended. He also lacked some of the people skills and the support needed to be successful at work.
But all that changed in 1989, when Hyatt’s brother suggested he give Peckham a try. It was an IT worker there who introduced Hyatt to a computer program that he could use to finally learn to read on his own. Gone were the frustrations of working alongside tutors. The computer program let Hyatt learn at his own pace. He considers learning to read one of the biggest accomplishments of his life.
With that obstacle gone, Hyatt’s other abilities were able to shine. He’s particularly good at identifying the specific learning needs of others – whether they have a disability or not – and then tailoring on-the-job training to meet them. His Peckham supervisors have encouraged him to capitalize on this strength. Hyatt is now a lead worker and trainer for environmental services.
Pride in work
He takes a lot of pride in his work, and incentivizes others to do a better job, too. Hyatt has been selected as Worker of the Year in the past and was part of the team that cleaned the Michigan Capitol building during the COVID-19 pandemic. Peckham has grown to include 16 locations across three states. They have more than 5,700 team members working in 30 different programs and across five lines of business.
Hyatt is just one example of that success. He is grateful to have a job that allows him to support his family. If not for Peckham, he says, he would not be where he is today. He learned from his past jobs that the private sector can be much less supportive than the guidance he’s found as part of Peckham. In addition to reading, Hyatt also has learned other, more nuanced skills like how to get along with others better and how to meet workplace expectations like punctuality and performance. He credits his supervisors at Peckham for not giving up on him, even through challenging times that included medical issues and his struggle with depression.
He summed up his experience by echoing a phrase that is almost organically embedded in the company’s culture: “People give up, but Peckham doesn’t give up on people.”
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Photo Credit: Peckham