Chuck Taylor of Wakefield is almost 30, but he didn’t land his first job until a few years ago. The reason: he has autism, and he has struggled with interpersonal communication.
Taylor’s work situation started to change when he got into a training program. Then, in 2016, he got a job at a bowling alley and restaurant in Lynnfield.
The state’s 3.5 percent unemployment rate appears to have opened the door to work opportunities for more people with disabilities like Taylor.
Triangle Inc., a Malden-based nonprofit, says it has recently had greater success placing people with disabilities in jobs around the state than it used to. Last year, the organization found jobs for more than 380 people, a 20 percent increase from 2016, according to Corey Grant, associate director of workforce development.
Grant said the economy has been a big factor.
“The low unemployment rate has given our individuals a chance to be a little more selective with the jobs that they do.” Grant said. “Nowadays people can pursue things in fields of interest, like home health aides and culinary arts. People can do things in careers of passion rather than just take a job.”
The misperception that someone with a disability is not intelligent or capable often stood in the way of job opportunities, said Manju Banerjee, vice president of educational research and innovation at Landmark College in Vermont.
While people with disabilities have often worked janitorial and other entry-level jobs, Banerjee said, the market has now opened to them positions in retail stores and casinos.
Taylor spent two years in a paid training program at Triangle before getting hired at Kings Dining and Entertainment. He has thrown himself into his work as waiter assistant. In January, the company named him employee of the year.
“I like that everyone’s so supportive. Everyone tells me I do a good job.” Taylor said.
When WGBH News met Taylor at Kings, he was busy serving customers at the bowling alley and restaurant. Taylor warmly greeted customers and gently placed their plates on the table. He said he enjoys interacting with people.
Taylor said he hopes to become a manager at King’s.
Doug Warner, vice president at Kings, said it’s often hard to find good workers. He said the chain of bowling alleys has made it a point to hire all kinds of people because talent comes in all forms.
Warner smiled as he watched Taylor run from the kitchen to the bowling alley.
“People like that are destined for big things within our company,” Warner said.