“The Disability Cliff”
The challenges faced by adults over the age of 22 with intellectual disabilities are significant and multifaceted, and they often encounter what is commonly referred to as "the Disability Cliff." This term encapsulates the daunting transition from the familiar world of federal entitlement to special education and services in school districts to the statewide "system" that awaits them. Unfortunately, this system is comprised of various agencies that are frequently underfunded, leaving many individuals without the necessary support they once had.
As a result, they find themselves falling off the cliff, navigating a complex and uncertain landscape without the resources and assistance they relied upon during their schooling years.
One of the most pressing challenges is the lack of access to essential day programs. Advocates assert that up to 3,000 Massachusetts residents are currently on waiting lists for these much-needed day programs. This scarcity of available programs leaves many individuals without the structured support they require to continue their development and lead fulfilling lives.
Moreover, the employment prospects for adults with autism and/or intellectual disabilities are alarmingly bleak, with an 81.5% unemployment rate reported by mydisabilityjobs.com. Instead of productive, mainstream jobs with competitive wages, they are often limited to dead-end positions that pay significantly less than the minimum wage. This disparity in employment opportunities severely restricts their financial independence and hinders their ability to contribute meaningfully to society.
The situation is further compounded by the fact that after the age of 22, the availability of supported day programs and employment services becomes contingent on state funding. As state budgets fluctuate, the level of support provided to these young adults becomes uncertain, leading to disparities in available services and exacerbating the challenges they face in securing a stable and fulfilling future.
In addition, the Institute for Community Inclusion at the University of Massachusetts Boston highlights that 80% of individuals served by state intellectual and developmental disabilities receive services in sheltered workshops, away from peers, the community, and a meaningful integrated life. This isolation limits their social interactions and denies them the opportunity to fully participate in community life, hindering their overall growth and well-being.
Addressing these challenges requires concerted efforts from policymakers, communities, and organizations to ensure that adults over the age of 22 with intellectual disabilities are provided with the support, resources, and opportunities they need to lead meaningful and productive lives. A comprehensive approach that focuses on inclusive education, employment opportunities, and community integration can help these individuals overcome the obstacles they face and thrive in society - and that’s where Post 22 comes in.