Disabled lose vocational coaches to shutdown
Posted October 10, 2013
Raleigh, N.C. — Finding work in a sputtering economy is difficult, especially for people with disabilities.
Four out of five disabled adults are unemployed, and their prospects for landing a job are getting slimmer now that the government shutdown has idled the people who train them for jobs and help them stay employed through coaching and support.
Greg Lazo's vocational rehabilitation position is federally funded, and he was told this week to stop working, leaving his clients on the job without support.
"A job is so important to someone's identity as a person, and if the job goes away, some of that identity goes away too," Lazo said.
Jonathan Mosher, 22, who has Asperger's syndrome, is one of Lazo's clients. His condition poses a challenge for him in the workplace – even during a job interview – because he struggles to understand what bosses want.
"You cannot go and say, 'This is what he's like. This is how you deal with him,'" said his mother, Ellen Mosher.
Lazo said his work involves getting managers and co-workers involved so they know how to deal with Mosher and others.
"It's what people who don't need services can do naturally on their own," he said.
Jonathan Mosher receives help through Easter Seals UCP in Raleigh, one of many organizations that provide vocational rehabilitation services around the state. A spokesman for the group said more than 600 of their clients have lost services because of the federal shutdown.
Without Lazo's help, Mosher's job search is on hold. He said he had hoped that the upcoming holiday season would make it easier – a lot of places are hiring – but without help, all he can do is wait and hope the shutdown ends soon.
"I just feel that getting a job would be the first step to independence, really," Jonathan Mosher said. "Because of (the shutdown), I'm literally dead in the water."