Amid A Caregiver Shortage, People With Disabilities Are Filling The Gap In D.C.

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ngd- We will all be asked to help support our community as described in this piece to the extent we can in our common future…

After graduating from college in 2015, Antonio Myers, 25, had some trouble finding steady work. He was a marketing assistant at a nonprofit. Then, he became a mail clerk at a federal agency in D.C. He had two stints of unemployment — one that lasted about 15 months. In between jobs, he helped out at his father’s work.

None of these felt like the right fit.

“Not to dismiss the office world, but when I tried the office world, I was a little more distressed, because I wasn’t as altruistic as I naturally am,” Myers says.

Earlier this month, Myers enrolled at a training program to become a direct support professional at RCM of Washington, an organization that serves people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Myers has seen DSPs, as they’re called, in action. He has autism, and he went to a school in Rockville for students with disabilities.

“I grew up in a world where I saw direct support all the time,” he says. “What DSPs do, I saw teachers and staffers do that. And I said, I want to do that too. I want to make outcasts genuinely smile.”

Myers is one of 12 students enrolled in “The DSP Academy,” a new program that was launched earlier this year to help people with disabilities train to become DSPs. As part of the six-week academy, students learn things like the history of disability rights, developing day plans for people with disabilities, and CPR. It’s funded through the D.C. Department of Disability Services, which refers prospective job candidates to the program. It’s an effort organizers hope will create jobs and fill a significant gap in caretaking.

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