Knoxville organization hopes to increase employment rates for people with disabilities through program


A Knoxville organization is making the workplace more accessible to people with disabilities, so they can always have the structure they might need after leaving school.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Less than 18% of people with disabilities in the United States are employed, according to the US Department of Labor. This number rose by 20% before the pandemic.

However, people with disabilities do not always choose to quit their jobs and not work. Sometimes the opportunities in the workplace are not as available to them.

In Knoxville, many people with disabilities are integrated into the workforce through Sertoma, a local organization that strives to provide opportunities for people with disabilities so that they can reach their full potential.

Matthew Roach is 37 and he connected with Sertoma in 2009 after graduating from high school.

“They graduated him and it was like, what do we do now?” said Lisa Roach, his mother.

The school serves as a structured system for many students with disabilities. After graduation, some parents wonder where to turn for this sense of structure.

“He’s too sociable to stay at home,” Lisa said.

It’s there that Sertoma’s supported employment program intervened.

“They’ve been so supportive. They’ve found his job in City County, which he loves,” Lisa said.

The idea behind the program is that everyone has the ability to engage in paid work.

“He gets paid for it, so he brings home a paycheck, which helps a lot,” Lisa said.

Sertoma’s supported employment The program pairs the person with an employment coach who helps them orient themselves in the responsibilities of the job. The coach makes work more accessible to people with disabilities, helping them to stay productive and keep their jobs.

“They just need someone to supervise so I don’t think they can go anywhere and find a job,” Lisa said.

The job coach must be present, but Matthieu and his other colleagues do the work anyway.

“It’s good that they are giving them this opportunity to be like everyone else and to be with other people who treat them like everyone else,” Lisa said.


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