Working age people underemployed

Courtesy of The Arc

Leading by Example: Organization helps people with disabilities find work in community

Eighty-five percent of working age people with disabilities are either unemployed or underemployed. Of the 15 percent that do obtain employment, only half are working in jobs in the community. Fortunately, new government regulations are focused on changing these statistics for working age people.

A recently proposed rule would require federal agencies to achieve a workforce participation rate of 12 percent for working age people with disabilities. One proactive agency, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), is already leading by example.

The FCC is implementing a disability hiring initiative dedicated to giving people with disabilities the opportunity to work in competitive and inclusive positions. The Arc’s employment initiative, The Arc@Work, continues to be integral in supporting the FCC with their hiring efforts.

Seeing the effort in action

working age people

Keith Coburn. Photo courtesy of The Arc.

Two members of The Arc’s national staff recently had the chance to meet one of these individuals, Keith Coburn. He began working at the FCC in October 2014.

After working seasonal and part-time jobs for years, Keith was ready for the stability and security that comes with full-time employment. So, he reached out to his local chapter of The Arc, The Arc of Prince George’s County, The Arc@Work.

The Arc@Work connected him to an opportunity at the FCC. More than two years on the job, Keith performs a variety of tasks that range from sorting mail to updating and maintaining the database of licensing sales and transfers.

As a problem solver and a “master of Excel,” Keith’s responsibilities have grown steadily during his time at the FCC. He is in the process of receiving his second promotion. The quality of Keith’s work and his strong work ethic have made, and continue to make, a huge impression on all those who have had the opportunity to work with him.

When asked to describe Keith, his supervisors, Annette Smith and Lisa Scanlan, expressed nothing but high praise. Dependable, great team member and great work product were only some of the ways they described Keith’s performance.

“When Keith is assigned work, he always completes his task on time,” Annette said.

Lisa summed it up by adding, “He always steps up to the plate. He is the ideal employee.”

Keith attributes his success to his determination. His advice for people struggling to find work? “Stick with it. Be flexible and be persistent.”

Sitting down with Keith and his colleagues, it is easy to see the strong sense of community and respect that exists in the office. The smiles, laughter and stories about Keith’s many successes show the huge impact that Keith’s employment has had not only on him but on his coworkers and the entire department.

The Arc@Work is a national initiative of The Arc that supports employers to successfully locate, hire and support employees with intellectual and developmental disabilities. If you are interested in learning more about The Arc@Work, please visit our website at or contact Katherine Murphy at

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