LifeShare's Goal of Competitive Employment Benefits both the Employer and the Individual

Date: 12/01/2016


LifeShare Leads the Way in Competitive Employment for Individuals with Developmental Disabilities

With recent Department of Justice (DOJ) rulings regarding employment of those with developmental disabilities, sheltered workshops across the country are or will be closing their doors, leaving behind “employees” who had been working at sub-minimum wages and often on piecework activities.

Samuel R. Bagenstos, the Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Civil Rights Division of the DOJ argued in a March 2011 speech that “full and equal life in the community cannot be achieved without a meaningful, integrated way to spend the day, including integrated work options.”

According to federal officials, an estimated 450,000 people with developmental disabilities nationwide currently spend their days in sheltered workshops and other segregated programs.

LifeShare has been dedicated to the preservation and safeguarding of Civil and Human Rights since its founding in 1995. LifeShare’s motto is “Real Life for Real People,” and competitive employment has been a major focus since its inception. In fact, LifeShare has become a leader in the competitive employment of individuals with disabilities. An incredible 51% of individuals the organization serves hold competitively paid jobs. The national average for integrated, competitive employment for individuals who have intellectual/developmental disabilities, according to, is 18%.

LifeShare LifeCoaches and Employment Specialists work with individuals who have paid employment as one of their primary goals to obtain, train for, and maintain their job. An Employment Specialist assists the individual in identifying their ideal job, finding several creative options within the desired field, resume writing, scheduling and preparing for interviews, and training.

The LifeShare team develops relationships with employers in order to build quality “natural supports” and offers assistance to the individual as long as he/she needs it. The individuals LifeShare supports are competitively employed, working alongside people of all abilities in a variety of industries.

Such is the case for Paul, who has been working at Dodge Grain, in Salem, NH, for 15 years. Paul works two hours each morning during the week taking inventory, restocking shelves, sweeping the warehouse, and tending to the disposal of the mountain of cardboard that accumulates daily.

A typical employee in an environment where responsibilities are to be taken seriously. Paul works at Dodge Grain with his LifeCoach, who ensures he has the tools and supports to successfully work competitively-compensated jobs, as well as pursue educational and recreational activities that promote confidence, self-esteem, and self-directed decision making.

For Dodge Grain owner Frank Burke, it was a very easy decision to build an inclusive workforce at his company from the beginning. It is part of a personal belief system that he has passed onto his children, who also have significant roles at Dodge Grain.

"It’s very important to include people of all abilities as members of our team; it’s good for our staff, our customers, and the community,” said Burke. “I want my children to realize you need to open your mind and your heart to different types of workers with different skills.”

Having hired Paul when the young man was in high school, Burke has seen how he’s grown and developed over the years. “It’s nice to see Paul succeed. He’s matured over the years and is more diligent in what he does. I really respect what he’s accomplished.”

“Paul is part of the (Dodge Grain) family,” said Frank. Every staff member accepts each other and works with each other to ensure the success of the business. 

“Paul is not special, he’s just one of the guys here,” he added. “That’s why it has worked out so well over the years.”

Other New Hampshire employers who have included individuals from LifeShare on their teams include: Northwood Diner, Walmart, Rite Aid, Hannaford, PetSmart, Dodge Grain, Market Basket, Wendy’s, Canobie Lake Park, Shaw’s, Sears, Home Depot, Exeter Academy, Great Bay Gym, Little Critters Pet Center, Subway, and more.

A 2005 U.K. study found that employment meets the needs that allow individuals to foster self-confidence and a sense of belonging and, when purposeful to the individual, employment becomes part of one’s identity and helps determine social roles and status. Purposeful, competitive work maximizes independence, improves health, and increases happiness.

To learn how your business can benefit from being involved with LifeShare’s supported employment program, call (603) 860-4323.

About LifeShare

Dedicated to the preservation and safeguarding of Civil and Human Rights, LifeShare’s motto is “Real Life for Real People.” Founded in 1995, LifeShare continues its mission to create empowering home and community-based supports for people with developmental disabilities, children in the child welfare system and people of all ages and abilities, particularly those who are often marginalized by society. LifeShare offers a range of services including residential, community-based and in-home support programs, competitive employment, as well as mental health services for children and adults. A national organization headquartered in Manchester, NH,

LifeShare currently provides services in eight states (NH, ME, MA, RI, FL, AZ, GA, SC) and also consults with Medicaid Managed Care organizations, commercial insurers and state governments. For more information, visit or call 603-625-8825.