From the very start, Northwest Center has led the inclusion revolution. In the early 1960s, four Seattle moms started their own schools where children with disabilities could learn and grow. Their goal was to provide education to children who were barred from public schools. It didn’t take long for other parents to join in, and in 1965 Northwest Center officially opened its doors to students with disabilities from across Seattle.
Our founding mothers spent the rest of their careers as advocates working towards a future where people of all abilities can receive an education, find meaningful employment, and reach their full potential.
As we kick off National Developmental Disability Awareness Month, we’re proud to be an organization that helps build inclusive communities for people of all abilities, from Early Learning classrooms where kids with and without disabilities share learning and playtime, and in employment services where we find employment opportunities that are meaningful and beneficial to both our clients and their employers.
And because 33% of our own organization is made up of people with a documented disability, we understand that not only are inclusive workplaces great for business, bringing better efficiency, retention, and other benefits, but also that working with people of all abilities builds strong friendships, connections, and partnerships that last for life.
Stories like that of Preston, Laethan, Sandra, Jackson, Anna, and Sandy are just the tip of the iceberg. Their experiences show the strength our community gains when people of all abilities learn and work together.
Our founding mothers started an inclusion revolution. But we’re just getting started.
Once again, Northwest Center is heading toward a remarkable anniversary. May 25, 2021 is the 50th anniversary of the passage of House Bill 90, “Education for All,” the Washington state law our founders wrote to guarantee a public education for children with disabilities. HB 90 led directly to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which impacted every ZIP code in the U.S. We’re excited to celebrate this milestone. But we also recognize how much further we have to go.
At this writing, public-school systems in Washington are under federal scrutiny for reports that students with disabilities have not been receiving the educational services they are guaranteed by law. Similar issues are sadly--and unacceptably—widespread. COVID-19 forced schools to go remote, resulting in children with disabilities nationwide being denied equal education. It’s a failure that further clouds a painful, turbulent time.
It may be difficult to look forward to greater equity, recovery, and peace as we remain in the throes of a pandemic and still very much troubled by injustice. But just as our founding mothers did what some thought was impossible in 1971, Northwest Center is planning for the future with determination and a renewed sense of purpose.
The events of the past year reminded us just how essential our mission of inclusion is for all communities. As we embark on our strategic plan for the coming decade, central to our strategy is our North: a world where 100% of kids have equitable access to education, and the employment rate for people with disabilities is the same as that of the general population. And our mission of inclusion intersects abilities, races, ethnicities, genders, orientations, and identities. We are committed to embodying that intersection and working alongside community partners as we expand our services.
While we are rightly proud of Northwest Center’s history, we are even more proud to count so many incredible families, supporters, businesses, employers, and organizations as partners in delivering on our mission.
We’re committed to making inclusive early education a reality for thousands more children as our IMPACT team continues to train educators and childcare directors. We’re committed to helping more parents of young children find the early intervention services they need. We’re committed to finding meaningful employment opportunities for more clients as we expand into Idaho and partner with amazing organizations like Swedish Edmonds. And with your partnership, we’re looking forward to being able to come together again, to build the trust, joy, and opportunity that every person of every ability and from every background deserves.
Join us, and let’s commit to making that change together.
Onward and upward,
Northwest Center Employment Services is now operating in the state of Idaho, an expansion that will allow us to begin helping people with disabilities find employment opportunities in Kootenai, Shoshone, Benewah, Bonner, and Boundary counties.
Northwest Center Employment Services serves both youth and adult populations at every stage in their careers, and our consultants will work with businesses to find solutions as well—and consultation is free!
“Northwest Center is proud and excited to expand our Employment Services into the state of Idaho,” says Ryan Newell, Regional Director. “With Idaho’s ever-growing economy and abundance of opportunity, we are able to expand our mission and help bridge the unemployment gap for people with disabilities. We are eager to serve.”
Our Employment Services are backed by more than 60 years of experience providing people with disabilities and their employers with support such as:
Northwest Center is passionate about equal rights, anti-ableism, and full inclusion for people with disabilities. Thank you for reading.