Didlake’s Mason Campus The UPS Store Employs People with Developmental Disabilities

Intern Travis helping the Patriot ship a package

There are many misconceptions about employing people who have developmental disabilities. Operating out of Manassas, Virginia, Didlake finds and creates employment opportunities for people with developmental and other kinds of disabilities. One of their business ventures in creating such opportunities is The UPS Store franchising, an operation well suited for job skills training. Recently they added a location, opening up on George Mason University’s Fairfax campus. In partnership with Mason LIFE, a program offering a university experience to young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, Didlake has assembled a team to proficiently handle the printing, packaging, and shipping needs of the campus community.

“One of the gaps we see in the disability community, in particular in younger individuals with disabilities, is there is a lack of professional work experience,” says Erika Spalding (BS Marketing ’07), vice president of corporate communications & marketing. For Didlake, The UPS Store franchises have continued to prove to be effective in increasing the productivity and comfortability of the employees/interns. Already with two The UPS Stores in operation, this most recent addition on campus offers four paid internship slots per semester, with options to carry over to the following semester. These interns are coming from a valued partner in Mason LIFE, whom Didlake has partnered with in the past. “Mason LIFE has about 50 people in their program and we’re really excited to be reengaging with their leadership team and participants,” says Rachel Payne, Ph.D., vice president of advocacy & public policy. Payne works directly with the staff at The UPS Store and the Mason LIFE program.

The location and layout of the Mason store not only makes it convenient for the interns to commute but also, allows for ample growth to develop skills. “We give them the opportunities to do different jobs and see what kind of work they prefer,” says Payne. The paid interns start out as customer service associates with tasks including running the register, putting mail in mailboxes, and fulfilling print and fax requests. It usually takes about 40 hours to learn how to work the position, and from there they can figure out their strengths and take on additional tasks and responsibilities. There are opportunities for career growth in different roles.

The critical role Didlake plays in matching people with disabilities to employment opportunities does more than just benefit those in the program. It generates visibility of employees working effectively and achieving results for the respective companies who employ them. “One of the biggest areas of progress we’ve seen,” says Payne, “is the number and quality of services available. We are proud that Didlake is doing its part.” Diversity, equity, and inclusion have been ingrained into what it means to be a George Mason Patriot and the campus continues to become even more welcoming. As part of that mission and culture, Didlake is a welcomed partner in creating mutually beneficial opportunities and opening eyes to how inclusion of people with developmental disabilities makes Mason and the community live up to their ideals.