In July 2010, President Barack Obama issued an Executive Order setting a five year goal of hiring 100,000 people with disabilities into the federal government. The Obama administration exceeded its goal by hiring 109,575 part and full time employees with disabilities between fiscal years 2011 and 2015. In January 2017, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission finalized a rule that set a hiring goal for all federal agencies. Pursuant to the rule, 12% of each entity’s workforce should be people with disabilities and 2 percent should be those with “targeted” conditions including intellectual and developmental disabilities. The applicability date of the rule was January 3, 2018 and it applies to all levels of the federal government. Moreover, the IRS offers employers incentives to hire qualified individuals with disabilities via the Work Opportunity Tax Credit.

On January 21, 2019, the Miami Herald published an article entitled “They live with autism. But it hasn’t prevented them from getting jobs in South Florida.”  The article talks about two businesses in South Florida and the wonderful opportunities they are providing to individuals with disabilities. The first business, The Chocolate Spectrum, is a family owned and operated artisan chocolate company in Jupiter, Florida. It employs two individuals with developmental disabilities and is training three more. Valerie Herskowitz opened The Chocolate Spectrum in 2013 to help provide her adult son living with autism with an employment opportunity. In 2016, she expanded the business and opened the storefront in Jupiter. Thanks to grants The Chocolate Spectrum has received, they have opened a Chocolate Spectrum Coffee and Pastry and Chocolate Satellite at Palm Beach Behavioral Health and Wellness in Jupiter and are able to provide 9-hour-a-week, six month apprenticeship opportunities to adults with autism and other special needs. The Rising Tide Car Wash in Parkland, Florida was also founded in 2013 by Tom D’Eri and his father John D’Eri to assist individuals with developmental disabilities in finding employment. Tom’s brother, Andrew is autistic. A second Rising Tide location was opened in 2017. The company reported to The Miami Herald that between the two locations, approximately 27,000 cars are washed each month and the business is profitable.

As the mother of a child on the spectrum, these business owners and their stories inspire me. MAS+ has become involved in autism awareness by sponsoring last year’s The Heart of Gold Fashion at Crystal Academy, a premium therapy center and school in Coral Gables, Florida and participating in other inclusion events sponsored by the school and the City of Coral Gables. I encourage our clients that are business owners to consider hiring individuals with disabilities because, while it is good for business, it is exponentially better for these individuals and our community.

To read the full Miami Herald article mentioned above, click here.

To watch Embracing Autism: A Coral Gables Story, click here.