A new city government program gives internships to people with disabilities and has exceeded its placement goals in the first six months.
The program, called Partnership for Inclusive Internships (PII), is a joint effort between the city’s Department of Social Services (DSS) and the nonprofit AHRC, with a grant from the Taft Foundation. Internship opportunities include placement in the Human Resources Administration and Department of Homeless Services.
PII started this May and includes opportunities for people with physical disabilities, mental illness, and autism, tailoring to specific needs and skills. The program expected to place 30 interns in the first year, and has already placed 36 interns throughout the DSS system in the first six months.
“Our mission is to provide New Yorkers with the support they need to live independent and productive lives,” said Social Services Commissioner Steven Banks. “We are proud to be a part of this program, which will connect individuals with disabilities to quality public service opportunities within City government, while also providing valuable work experience and promoting a positive, inclusive and welcoming environment for people with disabilities throughout the Department of Social Services.”
“Only 20.7 percent of Americans over age 16 with a disability were employed as of April 2019. And this is 29 years after the signing of the ADA. We can do better,” said Marco Damiani, CEO of AHRC NYC. “Hiring people with disabilities is not just the right thing to do; it’s the smart thing to do. The Program for Inclusive Internships will pave the way for capable interns to become valued employees.”
Some of the internships include data entry, IT, accounting and social service placements. So far, three interns have stayed on as DSS employees.
Rodelie Damille is a former intern who is now a DSS staff member. She was a summer intern in the PII program at the Family Independence Administration’s Educational Services Unit. She developed skills related to scanning, indexing and updating the unit’s database, and in September became a full-time HRA employee.
“I did enjoy the intern program, it really helped in developing my skills. I got a lot of valuable experience,” said Damille, who is 31. She said that she would like to see more programs that give opportunities for people with disabilities.
“I think this program is very helpful for people with disabilities,“ she said. “It was a success for me.”
Another recent intern was Luisa Janssen, a CUNY student studying for her master’s degree in architecture. She did a summer internship at the Dept. of Homeless Services, which included working with partnering architects to assess the accessibility of DHS shelters, and she also conducted independent research.
“I thought the program was excellent,” said Janssen, 25, who has a prosthetic left arm and left leg. “I enjoyed it as a professional experience.”
Janssen said networking was a valuable part of the program for her. “I learned things and developed my skills, but it was also a networking opportunity to open new doors,” she said. Through a connection made in the program, she found her current internship at AHRC.
“I think these programs, they’re essential to overcome the gap in unemployment,” Janssen said, noting that the program takes the time to understand the skills of each intern. She added, “They truly explore the potential of these people in the workplace.”