This is what inclusion looks like

Submitted by Sherwood Community Services.

By employing individuals who experience a developmental disability, we can create a more inclusive society that values diversity and promotes equal opportunities for all. Meet Jesus Pantoja. He was recently hired by Harbor Laundry Services thanks to the talents of Employment Specialists Evyn Hansford and Priscila Urbanski. Jesus experiences a disability. That doesn’t mean his dreams and aspirations are any less valid than yours or mine.

Harbor Laundry gave Jesus an opportunity to share his skills and willingness to help. He is accompanied to work through a program called Supported Employment. In recent years there has been a growing recognition of the need for inclusion for individuals with disabilities. According to the World Health Organization, about 15% of the world’s population experiences a disability. You might be surprised to learn that the San Juan Island School District reports that 25% of students experience some sort of disability, that’s 1 in 4 students. Despite this data, many individuals are still excluded from opportunities that their peers enjoy such as employment and social interaction.

However, this is starting to change. We want to highlight this inspiring example of Jesus Pantoja. Jesus has been employed by Harbor Laundry for about a month. His employer is pleased with the work Jesus is doing. She realized that it was Jesus’s birthday. To surprise him, His supervisor, Diana Wood brought in a cake with candles had a beautiful singing card and a gift for him. This was an extraordinary act of kindness. Jesus was so moved he began to cry. Jesus’s story represents the potential that individuals with developmental disabilities have when given the chance, and demonstrates the importance of inclusion in creating a more diverse and equitable society. By highlighting these inclusive practices, we are reminded of how our choices and inaction affect the lives of many. The case of Jesus Pantoja shows that inclusion is not only the right thing to do, it is also good for businesses and society as a whole. Hats off to you Harbor Laundry.