Untapped abilities: People with intellectual and developmental disabilities must overcome barriers to enter the workforce

  • Date: 09/04/2023

Jennifer Varnet works high above Main Street in Worcester, at the city’s oldest law firm: Fletcher Tilton. She prepares and scans files as part of a push to get literal tons of paperwork into online archives.

As unemployment rates locally and statewide hover around historic lows at 3%, Central Massachusetts nonprofits and businesses are working to help people with disabilities gain jobs, in ways beneficial to both employees and employers.

Workers with disabilities lose a dollar from their SSI checks for every two dollars they earn. But they can also account for disability-related expenses incurred while working, like for para transportation, allowing then to keep that portion of their benefit check.

Transportation is another barrier to working with a disability. While the Worcester Regional Transit Authority will arrange transportation for Jennifer to get to a doctor or hairdresser’s appointment, it will not help her get to work, Theresa Varnet said. She is going to have to miss two weeks of work this month because she can’t get a ride.

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