Thirty-three-year old Neil Vatsyayan loves Halloween, Six Flags theme parks and his tae kwon do class. He graduated from Shenendehowa High School in 2001 and lives with his parents in Latham. He also has a moderate case of Down Syndrome, a genetic abnormality which presents the afflicted individual with challenges in areas such as: language and communication; conceptual, social and emotional development; motor skills; and personal care, even as they cope with a variety of other health concerns and a shortened life expectancy.
For those with disabilities like Vatsyayan, finding employment can be extremely difficult, particularly for those in need of extra supervision or a specially regimented environment. As a result, according to staff at the Colonie branch of the Center for Disability Services (CDS) employment program, Commercial Services, they can often wind up leading very sheltered lives or being shipped off to day care programs during the hours that other family members are at work.
Day “habilitation” programs, according to Commercial Services Director of Quality Control and Business Operations Chris Schelin, can often be inflexible and offer less growth potential than employment programs like the for-profit mail services operation on Karner Road in Colonie, where Vatsyayan works as a mail processing clerk. More importantly, Schelin said, employment programs like this one give CDS consumers an opportunity to work and earn paychecks in a safe environment that is conducive to their success. “These guys have pride,” he said with obvious pride. “They work really hard.”