Work, study and other valued roles.

Where we carry out our work, studies and other valued roles are usually in places where we spend a lot of our time.  In these places, we have opportunities to meet new people who may become lifelong friends or partners.  These are places where we also build our skills and confidence through having a valued role.  Work, study, and other valued roles bring structure and meaning to our days, and sometimes the opportunity to earn a part or full income. In the context of a good life, valued roles can be seen as one of the most important ways to develop ourselves personally, professionally and financially.

Work is something that many people with disability do undertake and depending on the individual, they have relied on either formal or informal support or a combination of both to achieve this goal.

Some people have had to be very creative about employment; the ideal job can be many jobs away, or a person may carry out a number of roles during the week.  This might include: study, volunteer and paid work.  Self-employment can be a lot of work to set up and maintain, but once organised, it can provide job satisfaction for some.

But valued roles are never only paid roles.  While paid work might be a role that brings us more status than unpaid roles, if you ask anyone what they value most in life, the answer is usually, friendship, family, music, belonging etc.  So for those for whom paid employment may not be an option there are other ways that one can contribute and gain the benefits of meaningful and valued roles.  The role of artist comes to mind here.  There are many gifted people who find it difficult to find paid work for their particular skills but there is still a need for artists such as painters and musicians to be present in the community. With or without pay it can prove to be a fulfilling way to contribute to one’s community.  Joining a group, working as a volunteer and being a good friend, son, daughter, or neighbour are also extremely valuable roles.  These roles enhance a person’s inclusion and recognition as a member of their community.

Some people go onto higher education, and there is a lot more support for students with disabilities in the higher education sector these days.  Some of this support might surprise you as it accommodates students with varying levels of disability.  Students with severe mental health issues, autism spectrum disorder and physical and learning difficulties may be able to carry out studies with the particular support on offer.

For others, they may develop their own initiative such as a craft making business or a delivery service for example.  High school students might like to look into a school based apprenticeship or traineeship.

Whatever path or paths you choose it may present you with some challenges.  The services that exist to assist people with disabilities are never perfect and you may come across some flawed work practices.  It helps to have a clear vision of what you want so that you will be in a better position to ask for what you have the right to expect of those services.

For more information and options around valued roles, you can read the Pave the Way document:  Participation and contribution through work, study and other valued roles. This document can be mailed on request or downloaded from Pave the Way’s website at http://www.pavetheway.org.au/articles/2010/09/07/Participation_and_contribution_through_work_study_and_valued_roles.pdf