Keith Muniz: Some Florida Rest Stops Serviced by Adults with Disabilities

If you drive in Florida, especially on state roads like I-95, you have seen and probably used one of those rest stops along the highway. It’s where drivers and truckers can take a bathroom break, rest a bit, stretch their legs, and have a snack.

Finding workers to keep them clean and functioning can be a challenge. But thanks to Florida’s innovative thinking and willingness to partner with non-profit groups, we all get to enjoy the benefits.

You see, non-profits around the state provide workers to fill positions we all take for granted. One such partnership has developed between the Florida Department of Transportation and the ARC of Martin County.

Four rest stops Northbound and Southbound on I-95 in Martin and St. Lucie Counties are now being serviced by adults with disabilities from the ARC of Martin County.

The non-profit contracted with FDOT through the RESPECT of Florida program to provide jobs for men and women who are part of the ARC of Martin County’s Advanced Employment Services Program, also known as, AES. RESPECT of Florida is the Central Non-profit Agency for the state of Florida that creates employment opportunities for about 1,000 Floridians who are blind or have disabilities through contractual services and the production of commodities that are sold to government entities. The ARC is able to tap into this program to ensure a pathway to employment for adults with disabilities in the ARC’s AES program.

Business partners help these adults build on their strengths while they explore new employment interests and skills in a variety of industries. The work gives them functional work skills that leads to self-worth, confidence, and independence while filling employment needs across the state.

Currently, 30 adults in ARC of Martin County’s AES Program are working at the four rest stops handling janitorial services as well as taking care of the landscape, picking up trash, and essentially keeping the facilities clean.

The state’s transportation department is managed by Governor Ron DeSantis. Its business practices include organization-wide values such as integrity and respect and a philosophy that individuals with disabilities should be considered for jobs in an environment that gives them the freedom to compete on a fair and level playing field.

ARC of Martin County’s AES program works with organizations like the FDOT practicing inclusive policies that cultivate a diverse workforce. Various businesses train and support adults with disabilities by providing coaching services, resume writing, and interview preparation.

It’s a win-win for everybody!

Keith Muniz is the president and CEO of the Advocates for the Rights of the Challenged (ARC) of Martin County and St. Lucie County. The ARC is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization dedicated to empowering children and adults with I/DD through residential, vocational, educational, behavioral, and other healthcare services.

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