The Importance of Choice

by Debera Taylor, CEO of NW Works

When our ProjectSEARCH class of 2021 graduated, eleven of the twelve students had jobs lined up before graduation day. Eleven of the twelve were headed into employment, but the twelfth student demonstrated a different measure of success. This student had offers, but chose to decline them to find a job that better suited them and their passions. This student exhibited choice and exercised agency over their future. As an organization that focuses on empowerment through employment, we couldn’t be more proud of this student’s choices and our dedicated staff will keep working with that student until we find fulfilling employment for them. 

For people all over the world, our lives consist of choice: did you eat breakfast this morning? Did you wear slacks or shorts? Did you go to work or stay home? Choices range from the mundane to the profound, the public and the personal. At NW Works, we know choice is a critical part of our independence and our humanity. This is why we engage with our clients and their guardians to ensure clients have a say in how they spend their time in service. 

Society as a whole hasn’t embraced choice for people with disabilities and we need to be part of that change. Our organization has transitioned away from the sheltered workshop model to embrace a model of community-based, integrated employment first. We agree with the activists and leaders in the Disability Community that the best place for adults with disabilities to work is in supportive environments with non-disabled people. We are actively transitioning out 14(c) contracts –an antiquated system that allowed people with disabilities to be paid subminimum wages– and working to establish a series of new in-house employment options which clients can choose when and how they want to participate. We’re currently experimenting with different projects our clients can make and enjoy making, such as candles, wreathes, and other items. We plan to later establish a store where clients can sell their products and be paid for projects they create.

As we move toward the future of work, we invite you and your business to join us. When you partner with NW Works, you help to provide opportunities for clients to find their interests, hone their skills, and exercise their right to choice in their life.