Thursday, October 22, 2009

Disability Month Disappointment

I've been informed unofficially that the Employment, Life Skills and Performing Arts classes that are part of the City College curricula for people with disabilities may no longer be taught at The Arc.

This is disturbing news because many people with developmental disabilties find these classes invaluable, but they cannot access them if they are only available at a remote location like the City College campus out on Phelan Avenue.

During October, National Disability Employment Awareness Month, our staff and clients are very aware of the challenges people with Down syndrome, autism and other disabilities face as they try and break into the workforce.
City College has a 25-year relationship with The Arc. Their progressive and inclusive approach to education has honed the skills of many people with disabilities over the years--Job Club students like Tom who practiced his interview skills in class and then landed a job at Boudin's Bakery. Or like Nancy, a class graduate who is now a taxpaying 10-year veteran employee at Trader Joe's.
When I first heard about the changes being considered, I wrote to the CCSF Disabled Students Programs and Services (DSPS) Chair Paul Johnson, Dean Larry Klein, Chancellor Don Griffin and President Milton Marks.
I am somewhat relieved that a quick decision was made to continue these classes at least through the Spring term.
But what happens after that?
I'm very concerned that eliminating classes taught at The Arc will deprive students with the least access to the adult education they need to compete in today's job market.
Are students with developmental disabilities any less valuable than other students? Aren't the classes that help these individuals succeed just as important as other CCSF career development courses?
During National Disability Employment Awareness Month, as we celebrate the work and achievements of people with disabilities across the United States, I thank CCSF instructors and administrators for providing the innovative classes that are critical to achieve a fully inclusive workplace.
I encourage CCSF's leadership not to eliminate the vital education people with developmental disabilities must have if they are to reach their fullest potential in the workplace and in life.
Tim Hornbecker is the Chief Executive Officer of The Arc of San Francisco.