ODEP - Office of Disability Employment Policy
Disability Employment Policy Resources by Topic
Disability Listening Tour
A New Day: We're Listening
Six Federal Partners' Listening Sessions
Office of Disability Employment Policy
U.S. Department of Labor
January March 2010
Table of Contents
- KEY ISSUE 1: SYSTEMS CHANGE
- KEY ISSUE 2: SECTION 14(C) OF THE FLSA/SUB-MINIMUM WAGE
- KEY ISSUE 3: DISABILITY PROGRAM NAVIGATOR (DPN) INITIATIVE
- KEY ISSUE 4: TRANSITION ISSUES
- KEY ISSUE 5: EMERGING DISABILITY ISSUES
- KEY ISSUE 6: ACCESSIBLE TECHNOLOGY
- KEY ISSUE 7: EMPLOYER/EMPLOYMENT SERVICE PROVIDER EDUCATION AND TRAINING
- KEY ISSUE 8: MINORITIES WITH DISABILITIES
- KEY ISSUE 9: VETERANS WITH DISABILITIES
This report was prepared under the direction of Event Strategies, Inc. under Contract #GS23F0091M for the Office of Disability Employment Policy at the U.S. Department of Labor. The statements and recommendations in this report are those of the individuals who provided either verbal or written comments, as well as their release for their use, and do not necessarily represent the views or policies of the U.S. Department of Labor or any of its federal partners.
In January 2010, the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) initiated “A New Day: We’re Listening,” a series of six Listening Sessions to engage stakeholders across the nation. The purpose of these sessions was to collect information and comments about best practices and key issues to be addressed by Federal workforce systems regarding the employability, employment, workforce participation, retention, and promotion of people with disabilities.
Noting the unacceptably low rate of employment among people with disabilities, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Disability Employment Policy Kathleen Martinez invited representatives from other Federal agencies to participate in the Listening Sessions. Joining partners included the U.S. Department of Education’s Rehabilitation Services Administration; U.S. Social Security Administration; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services; U.S. Office of Personnel Management; and the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration, Veterans’ Employment and Training Service, Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, and Women’s Bureau. Assistant Secretary Martinez and representatives from these agencies comprised the panels at each session. For a complete list of representatives, please see Appendix A of this report.
As part of the Listening Session process, Assistant Secretary Martinez invited stakeholders to provide input in three key areas: 1) more effective ways to increase employment of women, Veterans, and minorities with disabilities; 2) identification of Federal and state systems effectively collaborating to achieve successful employment outcomes for people with disabilities; and 3) identification of three top issues on which the Federal government should focus to support an increase in labor force participation of people with disabilities.
In launching the Listening Sessions, Assistant Secretary Martinez said, “We’re interested in hearing what the problems are, but, frankly, we’ve studied them for the past 30 years. I think that it’s time we look at solutions and how those can be replicated.” Accordingly, this report summarizes the key issues raised during the Listening Sessions and recommendations provided by stakeholders for addressing them. It also provides descriptions of the various programs, initiatives, and organizations singled out by stakeholders as making a positive difference in the disability employment arena across the nation.
The Listening Sessions took place between January and March 2010, in Dallas, TX; Philadelphia, PA; Chicago, IL; Berkeley, CA; Atlanta, GA; and Boston, MA. For a complete list of dates and locations, please see Appendix B of this report. Of the 1,065 stakeholders who registered for the sessions, 821 participated. Of these, 522 attended in person and 299 submitted formal comments, informal comments from the floor, or comments online. Individuals who did not have the opportunity to speak had up to 48 hours following each session to submit comments online. Presenters included 192 individuals, 82 service providers, and 25 representatives of 21 employers. Registrants represented 47 states, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and the District of Columbia. ODEP extended the opportunity for others to view and/or hear each session in real time via captioned video and audio streaming on the Internet. Reports for each of the individual Listening Sessions are available on the ODEP Web site at www.dol.gov/odep.
II. Key Issues
Participants' comments broadly fell into nine general topics, as listed below. The following pages summarize the input surrounding each of these topics along with recommendations offered by stakeholders related to them. Please note that the lists of recommendations provided herein are not exhaustive, however but rather are reflective (or representative) of those provided. Complete lists of recommendations offered at each session are available in the individual session reports. Furthermore, the description of each key issue and its recommendations were written to reflect the sentiment of participants in the Listening Sessions and do not necessarily represent the views, policies, or priorities of DOL/ODEP or its Federal agency partners.
- Systems Change/Establishing a Commission
- Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)/Sub-Minimum Wage
- Disability Program Navigator (DPN) Initiative
- Transition Issues
- Emerging Disability Issues
- Accessible Technology
- Employer and Employment Service Provider Education and Training
- Minorities with Disabilities
- Veterans with Disabilities
Other mentioned topics and issues, many of which are inherent in or impacted by the topics above, included establishing a Presidential Commission to address the employment of people with disabilities, Medicaid Infrastructure Grants (MIGs); customized employment; barriers related to people who are blind, deaf, or hard of hearing; supported employment; ongoing supports for workers with disabilities; alternative financing for assistive technology; and transportation.
Key Issue 1: Systems Change
Summary of Stakeholder Comments
To effectively address systems change, stakeholders suggested that two things should happen: work disincentives in Federal programs should be eliminated, and cooperation and collaboration among Federal programs should be encouraged. A number of speakers expressed that many Federal programs actually work against each other. Many also remarked on the high level of effort required to locate, understand, and access Federal programs.
For example, a service provider in San Francisco said, "The national policy on employment and disability is still stuck in confusing rules and conflicting objectives. We must uncouple and demystify the goals." In addition, a service provider in Chicago remarked, "The system is sending the wrong message. It provides funding based on what people cannot do, rather than what they can do." Furthermore, several stakeholders said that they feel the expectation of employment must start early, with intervention as early as preschool so that all young people with disabilities have the expectation of working when they complete their education.
Stakeholders also commented that even when motivated to work, people with disabilities often face various system barriers. One parent in Dallas, herself a service provider, described her own frustration in locating appropriate services for her daughter when they moved to a different state. Underscoring the importance of easing this difficulty, she shared that when her daughter did finally obtain meaningful employment, she became a "new person." "She is gaining money and independence," she said. "And with that independence and purpose, we have a very happy, successful person, who pays taxes, who shops at your local Walmart and mall, and who is now a productive member of society."
Specifically, stakeholders cited work disincentives inherent in the Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs as having critical impact on the employment of people with disabilities. Overall, they called for changes to address the complexity of the system, asset and income limitations, and regulations that actually impede rather than encourage employment.
According to data presented by a stakeholder quoting from the Kaiser Family Foundation, in 2008, 8 million people with disabilities ages 16-64 were on SSDI, and 6.3 million people, including children, were on SSI. It is predicted that fewer than half of one percent of these individuals will leave these rolls. If continuing at the current rate, the cost to taxpayers for SSI, SSDI, Medicaid, and Medicare will be $1 trillion in 2018. This stakeholder said, "This is the cost for dependency, poverty, health care, and a disproportionate share of institutional long-term care."
Session participants stressed that to make wise choices, individuals who want to leave the benefit rolls need timely and accurate information on how working impacts their eligibility for benefits. They said that those who choose to become taxpayers rather than tax consumers continually face a dilemma: whether to seek low-wage or part-time jobs and maintain their benefits, or pursue higher-paying, full-time employment but risk losing a health-care safety net in the event they lose their job.
Stakeholders also noted that individuals who successfully leave benefit programs may paradoxically be less financially secure than if they had stayed. In fact, one speaker in Chicago said this is exactly her situation because her job affects her SSI benefits. Nevertheless, "Even with the financial challenge, I don't regret my decision to work. I am so much more than the disability that has gone before me," she said.
Summarizing participants' overall desire for greater cooperation and coordination among agencies that play a role in supporting the employment of people with disabilities, one individual in Philadelphia said, "The limitation of the service system, not a disability, is what's keeping people from jobs." In general, stakeholders expressed frustration that there are very different programs in different states with no consistency or portability between them.
Participants also said increased collaboration should ensure that all customers are treated with respect, that services are provided on a timely basis, and that programs work together rather than against each other. Collaboration when key individuals know each other and each other's programs results in more effective outcomes, they said. In addition to such "cross-pollination," stakeholders expressed a desire for standardization of data collection across Federal and state systems so that programs can more efficiently and accurately speak to the employment of people with disabilities.
A Philadelphia stakeholder expressed concern that "there is too much emphasis on using Medicaid dollars to help people get ready to work, rather than helping them to learn how to get and maintain employment." This stakeholder and others called for strategic plan and service outcome measurements to lead to ensuring real-life outcomes, including full-time employment at competitive wages in an integrated setting.
It was pointed out that a number of states are currently using MIGs to address systemic problems across state systems and that these efforts may serve as models for adoption by other states and the Federal government. In addition to government-to-government cooperation, participants endorsed partnerships with non-profit organizations, community service providers, and employers.
Although stakeholders strongly endorsed collaboration among rehabilitation professionals and workforce development professionals, they were divided on the appropriate "home" for the U.S. Department of Education's Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA). Some suggested that it should move to DOL, which has expertise in labor markets, accountability measures, and bridging systems. Others felt it should remain in the U.S. Department of Education in order to build on existing connections with internal programs. A middle-ground recommendation was to leverage the differences between rehabilitation and employment services by collaborating more effectively but leaving room for the individualized services that people with disabilities may need to obtain and maintain employment.
Summary of Stakeholder Recommendations
Below are recommendations provided by stakeholders regarding how to bring about systems change to improve employment outcomes for people with disabilities. As mentioned above, these statements were written to reflect the sentiment of participants in the Listening Sessions and do not necessarily represent the views, policies, or priorities of DOL/ODEP or other Federal agency partners.
- Eliminate the penalty for working. Sometimes individuals are offered good jobs with good salaries, but turn them down because they would lose benefits. Provide immediate access for people with disabilities to get back on public benefits, if they do lose a job, without going through a myriad of rules and reporting requirements.
- Develop a sliding scale to help people with disabilities who work to get off benefits. Reduce the benefit amount as income rises on a pre-set ratio of earnings-to-benefit dollars.
- Simplify the information that helps people receiving SSI, SSDI, and Veterans benefits to get access to information on what impact working will have on those benefits, and provide this information online.
- Create a systems map detailing how Federal programs work together or against each other when building employment services and supports for people with disabilities. Revisit the recommendations from the 2007 State Partnership Exchange, which included systems analyses identifying Federal and state policy challenges.
- Evaluate the outcomes of the service systems to ensure progress is being made in changing from a segregated to integrated approach to employment.
- Streamline the bureaucratic systems that are difficult for both consumers and service providers to navigate. Create more flexible and timely services so that those being served are able to capture education, training, and employment opportunities.
- Coordinate services across regions. As consumers move from state to state, they must begin a new search for services and go through new application processes. Regional coordination among states could provide a seamless transition for individuals who move from one state to another.
- Re-examine the current vocational rehabilitation policies, which do not allow for ongoing supports once the person is employed. The current case closure requirements are not responsive to individuals who need ongoing support in order to keep their jobs.
- Establish a Presidential Commission to study these and other interagency issues, and to identify needed changes to the President for action.
Key Issue 2: Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act/Sub-Minimum Wage
Summary of Stakeholder Comments
Stakeholders across Listening Sessions called for an examination of Section 14(c) of the FLSA, which authorizes employers, after receiving certification from DOL, to pay less than the Federal minimum wage to workers who have disabilities for the work being performed.
One speaker in Chicago reported that in 2002, 5,600 employers were paying sub-minimum wages to 424,000 individuals with disabilities. Others pointed out that no other group in the nation is permitted to be paid sub-minimum wages and that this provision of the law appears to devalue the work performed by people with disabilities, often does not encourage meaningful work experiences, and hinders independence because of inadequate compensation.
While speakers expressed concern about facilities that have 14(c) certificates, they also acknowledged that moving people into community jobs can be problematic in that many individuals employed under 14(c) need more intensive support than generally provided through vocational rehabilitation services. Family members in particular also argued that having these jobs available enables many individuals with disabilities to experience wage-earning opportunities, build self-esteem, and experience a sense of community belonging.
Even in cases where facilities holding 14(c) certificates seek to move from sub-minimum wage to competitive employment, other laws and/or funding formulas make doing so difficult. One speaker said that his organization had developed a three-year conversion plan, but when it attempted to put the plan forward, it learned that it would lose $840,000 in state funds in the first year if it followed through.
Summary of Stakeholder Recommendations
Below are recommendations provided by stakeholders regarding FLSA Section 14(c)/sub-minimum wage. As with the previous section, these statements were written to reflect the sentiment of participants in the Listening Sessions and do not necessarily represent the views, policies, or priorities of DOL/ODEP or other Federal agency partners.
- Examine the purpose and impact of FLSA Section 14(c). The concept originally based on the post World War I manufacturing economy, singles out and stigmatizes workers with disabilities and fails to reflect the technological advances and assistive technology that could help many of these individuals enter the competitive workforce.
- Phase out and eliminate FLSA Section 14(c). Ensure that changes to this law do not have a negative impact on those currently in community employment settings.
- Provide incentives to employers to phase out segregated workshops in favor of integrated community employment at or above minimum wage, and more choice for the individual.
Key Issue 3: Disability Program Navigator (DPN) Initiative
Summary of Stakeholder Comments
Many participants praised DPNs as effective educators and advocates who coordinate services for customers with disabilities and help facilitate collaboration between Federal, state, and local agencies, as well as local organizations and the workforce development community. According to participants, DPNs have a vast store of knowledge of regional, state, and national programs, which assists them in communicating timely information on disability employment issues to both the public and private sectors, and they have successfully networked to build contacts and improve outcomes for clients.
Participants provided a variety of examples of effective DPN services across the country. However, participants also expressed concern that, although the DPN initiative has been successful, it suffers from budget cuts and lack of an ongoing funding source. They called for direct funding for the program so that it can be sustained, expanded, and made available nationwide.
Summary of Stakeholder Recommendations
Below are recommendations provided by stakeholders regarding the DPN initiative. As with previous sections, these statements were written to reflect the sentiment of participants in the Listening Sessions and do not necessarily represent the views, policies, or priorities of DOL/ODEP or other Federal agency partners.
- Expand the DPN initiative to all One-Stop Career Centers and work toward codification of the DPN program via reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act of 1998.
- Provide a dedicated and permanent funding stream for the DPN initiative.
Key Issue 4: Transition Issues Youth and adults
Summary of Stakeholder Comments
Most of the transition-related comments received during the Listening Sessions reflected the traditional transition period of youth leaving school and entering adulthood and the world of work. However, many participants also raised transition issues faced by adults with disabilities. Key themes commonly heard were that youth too often "age out" of educational programs and are left without further options, and that many individuals who acquire disabilities in adulthood need support in establishing new careers but are unable to access the kinds of transition services and experiences available to youth.
In general, participants called for transition principles to be integrated into school planning much earlier than high school. They pointed out that expectations of both families and schools have a significant impact on the success of young people and called for the educational system to make transition a priority, not an add-on service. In other words, some stakeholders would like to see a commitment to an "Employment First" policy.
A number of stakeholders also reported that the mandate for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended (Rehab Act), to coordinate services to improve the transition of students with disabilities to employment has proven effective in moving states toward greater collaboration.
Volunteerism and internships were high on the list of effective avenues for youth work experience shared by participants, and they are being tested with hard-to-serve populations. A number of speakers called upon the Federal government to create more programs that would provide internship opportunities for adults with disabilities.
Summary of Stakeholder Recommendations
Below are recommendations provided by stakeholders on how to improve transition outcomes for youth and adults with disabilities. As with previous sections, these statements were written to reflect the sentiment of participants in the Listening Sessions and do not necessarily represent the views, policies, or priorities of DOL/ODEP or other Federal agency partners.
- Expand post-secondary settings for youth in the final four years of education entitlements. ODEP should work with DOL's Employment and Training Administration (ETA) to integrate students with disabilities into ETA-funded community college training programs and the Job Corps program. ODEP should also work with the U.S. Department of Education to develop language to position competitive integrated employment as the goal for transitioning students.
- Provide sufficient funding so that vocational rehabilitation agencies have the resources to invest in employment service plans and outcomes for every applicant with a significant disability. Two areas of escalating service demand are individuals in need of intensive supported employment services and high school students in transition. Create demonstration and program rule waiver authority among Federal agencies that advance collaboration on new evidence-based work incentive proposals.
- Increase funding for successful transition-to-work programs.
- Enforce "order of selection" in transition services. While both the Rehab Act and IDEA have prescriptive language requiring service providers to serve individuals with the most significant disabilities first, this responsibility is not being enforced. Rather, priority generally goes to individuals who may be able to get their needs met at One-Stops.
- Create internship opportunities for adults with disabilities who are not in a formal education program. Provide a stipend to the worker as well as compensation to companies offering the internships.
- Expand opportunities for people with disabilities in the AmeriCorps VISTA program. One of the current barriers is the lack of sufficient funding for accommodations. Consider creating a centralized accommodations fund for Americorps.
Key Issue 5: Emerging Disability Issues
Summary of Stakeholder Comments
Listening Session participants specifically brought up employment issues related to three disability populations that are growing: individuals with psychiatric disabilities, individuals with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and individuals with autism. In particular, they indicated a need for additional research into these disabilities, as well as a need to train vocational rehabilitation professionals on how to address the cognitive, emotional, social, and vocational needs of individuals with these disabilities.
One participant in Atlanta noted the pervasiveness of TBI, referring to it as "the signature injury" of military service personnel in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and reporting that "between 2000 and 2009, there were 161,000 reported incidents of TBI among active-duty service members."
Service providers and others explained that autism is a very complex disability that requires an effective support system and that job training may take a longer time than with other disabilities, but once completed, the worker can be effective. According to one stakeholder in Atlanta, the unemployment rate of people with autism is nearly 90 percent, and of the 10 percent who are working, many are underemployed.
Stakeholders also called for more attention to serving people with psychiatric disabilities. One Boston participant said that people with psychiatric disabilities comprise more than 33 percent of the disability rolls, representing the fastest growing group and that less than 5 percent ever cease receiving benefits, costing taxpayers $2 billion per month. Overall, participants noted that individuals with psychiatric disabilities may need a variety of supports to successfully work, ranging from structured programs to peer support. Employer understanding of accommodation needs and effective collaboration between employer and employee are essential, participants noted.
Stakeholders pointed out that since TBI, autism, psychiatric disabilities, developmental disabilities, chemical and environmental sensitivities, epilepsy, and diabetes are often not visible, individuals with these and other hidden disabilities may need assistance understanding disclosure issues to ensure they get the accommodations they need. There is also a need for employer education and assistance in identifying effective accommodations for people with non-visible disabilities. What employers cannot see is difficult to understand and accommodate, participants noted, with one employer representative in Philadelphia saying that in business, "What gets measured gets done. What is measured or is seen gets done."
Summary of Stakeholder Recommendations
Below are recommendations provided by stakeholders on how to address emerging disability issues. As with previous sections, these statements were written to reflect the sentiment of participants in the Listening Sessions and do not necessarily represent the views, policies, or priorities of DOL/ODEP or other Federal agency partners.
- Develop a comprehensive and proactive plan to maximize employment outcomes for individuals with TBI. This plan should include tax incentives for employers, grants to non-profit organizations to pay wages for individuals with TBI, Customized Employment and micro-enterprise options, and long-term supports.
- Fund research on people with autism. There is too little research available; yet, this population is increasing.
- Develop modules, online or in other formats, to help service providers understand the type of vocational training needed to ensure that individuals with autism can work and to help employers understand the accommodations needs of people with autism.
- Create meaningful tax credits for employers who hire persons with developmental disabilities so that they can hire a full-time job coach, if necessary, who can be shared among several employees. Make the credit renewable each year the person is employed.
- Adopt "Employment First" policies in Federal and state programs and policies, to include data tracking and sustainable training and reimbursement systems that support job development and employment services. "Employment First" means a general expectation that people with developmental disabilities can and should work, preferably in integrated settings at competitive wages. The policy framework should emphasize employment, rather than services.
- Provide funding for an interagency committee, as recommended in 1993 by a Congressional panel, to examine chemical and environmental sensitivities. There needs to be a government-wide effort to promote healthy indoor environmental quality (IEQ) consistent with the Access Board's IEQ report and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's IEQ policy. Multiple agencies, including those dealing with disability, health, environmental, and Veterans issues, should work with disability researchers, clinicians, and advocates to develop and promote best practices guidelines.
- Identify and address other hidden disabilities.
Key Issue 6: Accessible Technology
Summary of Stakeholder Comments
Participants across sessions commented on the critical nature of technology in today's workplace, noting that it plays an essential role in a variety of functions, starting with the job application process and continuing from there. They also acknowledged the many ways in which advances in technology have opened the doors to employment for people with a variety of physical and mental disabilities.
The rapid nature of change in the world of technology creates both advantages and challenges for developers as well as people with disabilities, participants said. For example, today, nearly every company that has an Internet presence also has an online application process, including the Federal government's USA Jobs Web site. Unfortunately, as stakeholders pointed out, many of these sites are not accessible to people with disabilities, thereby posing immediate barriers to employment. As developers rush to outdo each other in new applications, few give attention to accessibility in original designs, participants said. Too often, even when accessibility is considered, it is an add-on feature, and sometimes the "fix" is less than efficient.
Furthermore, session participants called for the focus to extend beyond assistive technology. New jobs being created depend more and more on technology, and technology is the key to learning and working not only onsite in a traditional workplace but also remotely. As one employer pointed out, all workers need productivity tools to be effective, and technology is certainly a critical productivity tool.
Participants also said that the pace of technological change poses challenges in ensuring people with disabilities are appropriately trained and have opportunities for continuous training. In addition, the cost of assistive technology products and services poses financial challenges for many; however, according to participants, alternative financing programs and credit counseling can assist in gaining access.
Summary of Stakeholder Recommendations
Below are recommendations provided by stakeholders related to accessible technology. As with previous sections, these statements were written to reflect the sentiment of participants in the Listening Sessions and do not necessarily represent the views, policies, or priorities of DOL/ODEP or other Federal agency partners.
- Increase funding for alternative financing programs. Currently there are 33 alternative financing programs throughout the U.S. and its territories, and some are underfunded. These programs have proven effective in providing loans for assistive technology, thus helping people with disabilities to work, and should be extended to all states and territories.
- Ensure that all government job application Web sites, beginning with USA Jobs, are fully accessible. Also, work with developers of job application sites to simplify the process. There should be an accessible area to learn about employment opportunities and upload resumes. Accessibility needs to include adaptive interfaces for people who have vision-related or hearing related disabilities.
- Ensure that emerging technologies are accessible technologies.
Key Issue 7: Employer/Employment Service Provider Education and Training
Summary of Stakeholder Comments
Stakeholders called for more effective outreach to employers, but also the need to understand employers' needs and local employment conditions. They said employer education encompasses everything from promoting the value workers with disabilities offer and training and accommodation resources, to tax incentives and strategies for attracting customers with disabilities. At the same time, outreach can educate service providers and others about employers' needs, essential job skills, and effective ways to market the talents and skills of people with disabilities.
Several stakeholders who work with employers pointed out that understanding the business environment, including how a business operates and the types of skills it needs, is the key to successful employment. Too often, those charged with making the job placements know only the qualifications of the potential employee, not the needs of the business, they said. Service providers and job developers need to learn to communicate with employers in business terms and be able to demonstrate how potential applicants can meet their business needs.
At the same time, stakeholders would like to see education to help employers understand that people with disabilities are more independent, mobile, educated, and empowered by technology than ever before. Most importantly, they said, employers need to learn that hiring a person with a disability is a wise investment and that assistive technology, when needed, can greatly improve productivity. As one employer pointed out, "Accommodations are not something special for special people. They are productivity tools for employees."
Participants said education also involves ensuring employers understand their rights as well as responsibilities related to people with disabilities. "While employers need to understand that disability is part of the equal employment opportunity criteria, they also need to be assured that they have rights under the law and are not required to retain anyone who fails to perform on the job," another said.
According to Listening Session participants, both Federal and state governments need to review their processes to determine how effectively they work for stakeholders and employers alike. A speaker in Chicago reported that, through MIG funding, states are engaging stakeholders and employers to diagram the processes people with disabilities must go through to navigate the state's programs and services, and those which employers must also go through to access "inflexible" state and Federal programs for qualified applicants with disabilities.
Summary of Stakeholder Recommendations
Below are recommendations provided by stakeholders regarding education and training for employers and employment service providers. As with previous sections, these statements were written to reflect the sentiment of participants in the Listening Sessions and do not necessarily represent the views, policies, or priorities of DOL/ODEP or other Federal agency partners.
- Shift the focus in vocational rehabilitation and other employment services from the job seeker's needs to employer-driven job development. By understanding the job market and employers' needs, job developers can more effectively match candidates to positions.
- Foster a three-way partnership between the Federal government, the employer and the disability community. There needs to be a dialogue on how to maximize participation from the vantage points of workforce development and economic growth.
- Increase funding and professionalize employment services through vocational rehabilitation. While vocational rehabilitation professionals are knowledgeable in addressing the needs of the job seeker, they often lack both appropriate training and compensation to take on the role of employment service providers. Employment services should be handled by those trained in working with employers.
- Develop a package of incentives and a business case that can be easily understood, particularly by small businesses. The current structure of tax incentives is too complex. Small businesses need easy access to information and training. Most importantly, businesses need to see that hiring people with disabilities is good for their bottom line.
- Cultivate collaboration between ODEP, RSA, and the Social Security Administration (SSA) and employers, vocational rehabilitation, and state training institutions to provide skills training for people with disabilities using a demand-side job training and placement model.
- Provide ongoing incentives to reward employers who employ people with disabilities as long as the individuals remain on the job.
- Fund and establish a Disability Network, similar to C-SPAN, to deliver information on resources and training directly to consumers, employers, service providers, parents, medical professionals, teachers, and others with whom individuals with disabilities interact.
Key Issue 8: Minorities with Disabilities
Summary of Stakeholder Comments
Comments received to another theme during the Listening Sessions was a need to better understand and address the multiple issues that impede employment for minorities with disabilities. According to one stakeholder, people with disabilities in minority communities experience twice the discrimination of community members without disabilities. In addition, the culture of some minority communities is such that the individual is protected by and kept at home with the family rather than encouraged to work toward employment.
As a result, these individuals may be least likely to know what services may be available or how to access them, said some stakeholders. And even if they do seek out services, they are unlikely to see themselves reflected in the people who are serving them. When serving minority populations with disabilities, it is important for service professionals to understand the role that culture and community values play in disability and employment issues. More mentors and role models of people of color are needed in key leadership roles, including in the disability community.
Participants also said that some minority individuals with disabilities need career coaches or vocational education programs linked to job placement to ensure that those capable of working have opportunities to do so. One speaker who teaches hard-to-serve youth expressed concern that youth without available opportunities are in danger of ending up in the criminal justice system. Also important are internships, on-the-job training, and job coaches, the speaker said. In Chicago, another stakeholder expressed concern about a minority youth with a disability who was fired from his job after two weeks because the supervisor claimed he did not have the time to show him the assigned tasks or provide supportive materials that would allow him to function independently on the job.
Summary of Stakeholder Recommendations
Below are recommendations provided by stakeholders regarding improving employment outcomes for minorities with disabilities. As with previous sections, these statements were written to reflect the sentiment of participants in the Listening Sessions and do not necessarily represent the views, policies, or priorities of DOL/ODEP or other Federal agency partners.
- Link vocational education programs and on-the-job coaching to job placement for minority youth with disabilities so that those capable of working have opportunities to do so.
- Develop policies and practices that assist welfare recipients, many of whom are women and minorities with disabilities, obtain and maintain employment. Develop guidance for local workforce investment boards to strengthen the capacity of One-Stops to increase job opportunities for minorities with disabilities and for Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) recipients.
- Provide resources for focused research on the multiple barriers faced by Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders with disabilities because these individuals in these populations have been less able to find work than other minorities with disabilities.
Key Issue 9: Veterans with Disabilities
Summary of Stakeholder Comments
According to a comment from Easter Seals, of the nearly 25 million Veterans in the U.S. today, almost three-fourths have served in a war or conflict. Many returned with injuries or disabilities. Over 20,000 were wounded in action in Iraq and Afghanistan. Half are unable to return to their military careers due to disability, and some have complex disability issues. In addition to physical disabilities, many face hidden disabilities such as TBI and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Stakeholders stressed that it is important to address Veterans' disability and employment issues immediately upon return, and that military transition programs should address all relevant resources. In addition to the traditional services provided through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), DOL's Veterans Training and Employment Service (VETS), and individual military branches, stakeholders said that both private and public sector organizations are addressing these issues, and in some cases, promising practices are being replicated.
Summary of Stakeholder Recommendations
Below are recommendations provided by stakeholders regarding improving employment outcomes for returning Veterans with disabilities. As with previous sections, these statements were written to reflect the sentiment of participants in the Listening Sessions and do not necessarily represent the views, policies, or priorities of DOL/ODEP or other Federal agency partners.
- Allow Veterans to access services through community-based providers to help alleviate the long delays currently reported in the VA system.
- Improve workforce transition services for Veterans. While many services are available to Veterans and their families, many Veterans, including members of the Reserves and National Guard, struggle to navigate the administrative system to access these programs.
Additional General Recommendations for the Federal Government
In addition to the above recommendations relative to key issues, stakeholders provided the following recommendations directed at the Federal government in general:
- Lead by example in hiring people with disabilities at all levels. The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) should take the lead to better publicize the Schedule A Hiring Authority among Federal human resources personnel and hiring managers and train them on how to effectively utilize it.
- Reauthorize MIGs and take steps to develop a single, national Medicaid Buy-In with a minimum threshold of earnings and worker asset-building provisions.
- Revisit self-identification of disability as it applies to Federal contracting laws. This issue is particularly significant when considering the accommodation needs of people with hidden disabilities.
III. Specific Programs, Initiatives, and Organizations
In all Listening Sessions, participants shared information about programs, initiatives, and organizations they felt were promoting positive change in the disability employment arena. The following is a listing of examples provided along with brief descriptions and referral to where more information about each can be found online, if applicable.
It is important to note that as with the recommendations outlined in Section II, the programs, initiatives and organizations mentioned below reflect the sentiment of participants in the Listening Sessions. Inclusion of a particular program, initiative or organization does not represent an endorsement by DOL/ODEP or other Federal agency partners.
Specific programs, initiatives, and organizations identified include:
Disability Program Navigator (DPN) Initiative
Several stakeholders said that DPNs have the capability to identify, connect, and coordinate appropriate services both disability-related and non-disability-related in a way that improves employment outcomes. Specific examples and anecdotes from Idaho, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, and New York (Binghamton, Canton, and White Plains) were provided. More information about the DPN initiative is available at www.doleta.gov/disability/new_dpn_grants.cfm.
Medicaid Infrastructure Grants (MIGs)
Stakeholders expressed that because MIG funding is flexible, states can tailor it to their needs, prioritizing initiatives based on the realities in their communities. MIGs provide financial incentives for states to create Medicaid Buy-In programs, as well as Personal Assistance Service (PAS) programs. Furthermore, the knowledge and best practices being gleaned through these grants may present models for systems change at the Federal level. More information on the MIGs is available at www.mig-rats.org.
According to stakeholder information, in 2009, more than 6,000 people in New York State enrolled in Medicaid Buy-In, which extends Medicaid coverage to certain disabled people who work. Among other successes reported was the opportunity for a young man with a psychiatric disability to start his own business as a guitar instructor, giving him income and a renewed sense of purpose. More information about Medicaid Buy-In is available at www.socialsecurity.gov/disabilityresearch/wi/buyin.htm.
Customized Employment is a flexible work arrangement strategy for integrating people with significant disabilities into competitive employment. Stakeholders reported that customized employment has been effective with youth in West Virginia and in helping people with developmental disabilities in other states establish their own businesses. More information about Customized Employment is available at www.dol.gov/odep/topics/CustomizedEmployment.htm.
Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act
Listening Session input indicated that the Ticket to Work and Self-Sufficiency program, part of the Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act, can be an effective solution for some beneficiaries of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) who want to work but are concerned about losing benefits, like health care coverage. One stakeholder specifically said her current competitive employment situation is a result of this program. More information about Ticket to Work is available at www.yourtickettowork.com or www.socialsecurity.gov/work/aboutticket.html.
Workforce Recruitment Program (WRP)
Several participants praised the WRP, which connects Federal employers with qualified college students and recent graduates with disabilities seeking summer internships and permanent jobs. Specifics provided for Temple University were that since 1996, more than 100 students have received professional development training in preparation for WRP recruitment, with 59 obtaining paid internships. In 2009, nine out of 10 Temple students interviewed for the program were selected as interns, four of whom were offered full-time Federal jobs. More information about the WRP is available at www.wrp.gov.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)/National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NISOH) Indoor Environmental Quality Guidelines and Census Bureau's Fragrance-Free Policy
Both CDC/NIOSH's Indoor Environmental Quality Guidelines and the Census Bureau's Fragrance-Free Policy were singled out as models for addressing issues related to individuals with chemical and environmental sensitivities. More information about the CDC/NIOSH guidelines is available at www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/indoorenv. More information about accommodations for individuals with chemical and environmental sensitivities is available at www.AskJAN.org/media/resp.htm.
National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR)
NIDRR was noted as a small but cutting-edge agency that has provided significant funding for innovative research on workplace and school accessibility for individuals with disabilities. More information about NIDRR is available at www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/osers/nidrr/index.html
Social Security Benefits Counseling
Social Security Administration (SSA) benefits counseling was noted for helping people understand how income relates to benefits. More information on SSA benefits counseling is available at www.ssa.gov/work.
Randolph-Sheppard Vending Facility Program
Stakeholder input indicated that theRandolph-Sheppard Vending Facility Program, authorized by the Randolph-Sheppard Act, continues to effectively provide persons who are blind with employment and self-support through the operation of vending facilities on federal and other property. More information about the Randolph-Sheppard Vending Facility Program is available at www2.ed.gov/programs/rsarsp/index.html.
According to Listening Session input, Supported Employment has proven to be an effective strategy for integrating into competitive employment people with significant disabilities for whom competitive employment has not traditionally occurred, and who, because of the nature and severity of their disability, need ongoing support services in order to perform their job. More information about Supported Employment is available at www.dol.gov/odep/archives/fact/supportd.htm.
AmeriCorps VISTA Program
Stakeholder input indicated that the training and experience provided by the AmeriCorps VISTA program greatly helps prepare individuals for the workplace environment. Of note is also the fact that there is no negative impact for those on SSI while participating in the program. More information about the AmeriCorps VISTA program is available at www.americorps.gov/about/programs/vista.asp.
Youth Service Coordination Mandate
According to Listening Session participants, the mandate for coordination of services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Rehabilitation Act to improve transition outcomes for youth with disabilities has proven effective in moving state systems toward greater collaboration and coordination.
Massachusetts's Model Employer for People with Disabilities Initiative
Massachusetts's Model Employer for People with Disabilities initiative was praised for its efforts to affirmatively promote the hiring and retention of people with disabilities in the Executive Branch of state government. Among other aspects, this initiative includes a fund for accommodations and paid internships for youth with disabilities referred through vocational rehabilitation. More information about the initiative is available at www.mass.gov/?pageID=afsubtopic&L=4&L0=Home&L1=Employment%2c+Equal+Access%2c
Michigan Career and Technical Institute (MCTI)
MCTI, a state-operated, residential postsecondary school offering career training programs and a full range of support services for people with disabilities, was reported as having achieved a retention rate of 97 percent in 2008-2009, with 73 percent of graduates transitioning to employment. MCTI is in the process of adding additional career programs and opening a satellite school in Detroit using American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds. More information about MCTI is available at www.michigan.gov/mdcd/0,1607,7-122-25392_40237_40242---,00.html.
Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS), Minority Outreach Effort
According to stakeholder input, IDHS's Division of Rehabilitation Services experienced improved employment outcomes for minorities with disabilities between 2000 and 2009,. Specifically, it experienced a 19.5 percent increase in average monthly outcomes, 20 percent increase in rehabilitation rate and 10 percent increase in the number of minorities served (with a 32 percent increase in Latino customers). More information about IDHS's Division of Rehabilitation Services is available at www.dhs.state.il.us/page.aspx?item=29764.
Maine Department of Labor
Using ARRA funds, the Maine Department of Labor provided paid summer work experience to 700 youth and adults, 35 percent of whom disclosed a disability, according to Listening Session input. Participants reported benefitting from not only income, but also new friendships and community connections.
Citizens Development Center (CDC), Dallas, TX
CDC is a nonprofit agency that works to empower men and women with disabilities to achieve employability and independence. A stakeholder shared that CDC has three programs: a packaging and assembly work center employing 165 people; a community-based program through which four counselors reach out to employers to identify available jobs; and Operation Employment," a Dallas Foundation grant program that helps returning Veterans with service-connected disabilities find jobs. More information about CDC is available at www.cdcdallas.org.
The nonPareil Institute, Plano, TX
According to information provided during the Listening Sessions, the nonPareil Institute was launched in 2009 by a group of parents of children with autism to try a different strategy to promote employment for adults with autism. Its model is a campus atmosphere where adults with autism can learn marketable skills, primarily in technology. The Institute will then partner with companies to outsource work that students will complete in nonPareil's facilities. Workers will be paid prevalent wages. Current students range in age from 21-42 and include university graduates who have been unsuccessful at obtaining employment. More information about the nonPareil Institute is available at www.npitx.org.
Pennsylvania Assistive Technology Foundation (PATF), King of Prussia, PA
PATF is a non-profit organization that provides low-interest loans to people with disabilities to assist in buying assistive technology. In addition to loans, PATF offers education about assistive technology and financial counseling and support. It also collaborates with AgrAbility, a program that helps farmers with disabilities and their families get equipment to assist them to continue farming. According to stakeholder input, over the last decade, PATF has extended more than $21 million in loans, with a default rate of only 1.4 percent. More information about PATF is available at www.patf.us.
Center for Excellence in Disabilities (CED), West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV
CED provides resources and supports for people with developmental and other disabilities in all 55 counties in West Virginia, which has the highest percentage of people with disabilities in the nation, according to stakeholder input. The CED currently has three federally funded programs that impact employment: Work Incentive Planning and Assistance (WIPA), a DPN, and a MIG. It also houses other non-Federally funded initiatives, included youth-targeted initiatives and the above-mentioned AgrAbility program. More information about CED is available at www.cedwvu.org.
Employment First, National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities (NACDD), Philadelphia, PA
NACCD represents 54 state and territory Councils on Developmental Disabilities and works to enhance these members' efforts to develop self-directed services and supports for the more than 5.4 million Americans with developmental disabilities. According to stakeholder input, NACCD has played a significant role in shaping Employment First" policies, which reflect an expectation that a people with developmental disabilities can and should work and that services tailored to their needs and interests are key to positive employment outcomes. Successful examples of the implementation of Employment First" policies in nine states were provided. More information about NACDD is available at www.nacdd.org.
Real Economic Impact (REI) Tour, National Disability Institute (NDI), Washington, DC
The Real Economic Impact Tour (REIT), managed by NDI and funded by NIDRR, assists low- to moderate-income workers with disabilities with asset building strategies and free tax preparation and filing assistance. These services are deemed critical because, according to stakeholder input, 51 percent of people with disabilities earn less than $21,000 per year and fewer than 21 percent earn more than $40,000. REIT was launched five years ago. In its first year, the program helped 7,600 taxpayers in 11 cities. In the last year, it helped 181,000 in 82 cities. More information about REIT is available at www.realeconomicimpact.org.
Certified Peer Specialist Program, Mental Health Association of Southeastern Pennsylvania (MHASP), Philadelphia, PA
MHASP is a non-profit organization that offers education, advocacy programs and mental health services in five counties in Southeastern Pennsylvania. Approximately 60 percent of MHASP staff members have a diagnosed psychiatric disability. According to stakeholder input, the organization has had significant success in training individuals in recovery as Certified Peer Specialists. Certified Peer Specialists undergo a two-week training program to provide peer support to others with psychiatric disabilities. MHASP then employs the Certified Peer Specialists. More information about MHASP is available at www.mhasp.org.
Military and Veterans Initiative, Easter Seals, Chicago, IL
Easter Seals offers services, education, outreach, and advocacy so that people with a variety of disabilities can live, work, and play in communities across the nation. According to stakeholder input, the organization has a number of successful programs targeted specifically at Veterans with disabilities, all falling under the umbrella of a nationwide Military and Veterans Initiative. These include a personalized collaborative program in Illinois as well as Operation Employ Veterans," funded by the McCormick Foundation, and Reverse Boot Camp," a reintegration program. More information about these programs is available at www.easterseals.com.
University-Community Model, University of Massachusetts and University of Illinois at Chicago
According to information provided during the Listening Sessions, a professor working in Asian American Studies and Honors Programs developed a curriculum in use at two universities (University of Massachusetts and University of Illinois at Chicago) to promote disability inclusion on campus and in the local community. The purpose of the curriculum is to integrate stigma, disability, and mental health issues into other courses, rather than address them within specialty departments, as a way to broaden exposure to disability-related topics. The curriculum promotes cross-cultural aspects to disability inclusion and draws upon resources from local disability and refugee communities.
Mentoring Program, Santa Clara Valley Medical Center (SCVMC) Rehabilitation Research Center, San Jose, CA
Funded by the RSA for the past five years, the SCVMC Rehabilitation Research Center's Back on Track...To Success" Mentoring Program assists teens and young adults between the ages of 16 and 26 with disabilities to successfully get a job or go to college. Most participants have Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) or Spinal Cord Injury (SCI). According to information provided during the Listening Sessions, 69 participants have been matched with mentors since the program's inception. A total of 22 have completed the program, and of these, six are working and 10 are attending school. In addition, 43 individuals who participated in the program for at least six months reported significantly improved life satisfaction. More information about the Back on Track...To Success" Mentoring Program is available at www.tbi-sci.org/mentor.html.
Proyecto Visión, World Institute on Disability, Oakland, CA
The World Institute on Disability's Proyecto Visión (Project Vision), the first national technical assistance center for Latinos with disabilities, provides services to employers, service providers, and job seekers to address barriers young Latinos face in effectively using disability and workforce services. It is supported by corporate partners; it receives no Federal, state, or local government funding. According to stakeholder input, the program has been so successful thus far that it is being replicated to serve youth with disabilities from other underprivileged populations. More information about Proyecto Visión is available at www.proyectovision.net.
Center for Personal Assistance Services (PAS Center), University of California, San Francisco
The PAS Center at the University of California, San Francisco provides research, training, dissemination, and technical assistance on PAS in the U.S. Among the topics it addresses are the need for PAS; home and community-based services; workers and caregivers (the PAS workforce); economics and workplace PAS; and emergency preparedness. According to stakeholder input, the PAS Center strives to ensure that people with self-care limitations have access to information that will help them live independently and pursue employment opportunities. More information about the PAS Center is available at www.pascenter.org.
Side by Side Brain Injury Clubhouse, Atlanta, GA
Atlanta's Side by Side Brain Injury Clubhouse is a non-profit organization that provides employment and support services to individuals with severe and persistent brain injury. According to stakeholder input, its programs seek to create ways to serve this population; including hiring them to work in the program and providing services they are unable to get through vocational rehabilitation. More information about the Side by Side Brain Injury Clubhouse is available at www.sidebysideclubhouse.org.
Credit-Able, Center for Financial Independence and Innovation (CFII), Atlanta, GA
CFII's Credit-Able is Georgia's alternative financing program for assistive technology, one of 33 such programs in the nation. Its mission is to make independence affordable for state residents with disabilities. It does this by providing low-cost loans for assistive technology devices and services, partnering with relevant agencies and organizations, and educating about assistive technology options as well as credit and other personal finance topics. More information about the Credit-Able program is available at www.thecfii.org/creditable.html.
High School/High Tech (HS/HT), Georgia Department of Labor
Georgia's High School/High Tech (HS/HT) is a community-based transition and enrichment program that connects youth with disabilities with academic and career-development experiences that will enable them to succeed in the workforce. According to stakeholder input, the program is framed around ODEP's Guideposts for Success," a policy framework that supports young people transitioning out of high school. Since 1997, the program has served more than 4,000 students. In 2002, the program moved to the Georgia Department of Labor from the Georgia Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities. Today, there are 38 sites serving more than 400 students. The school drop out rate among participants is zero. More information about Georgia HS/HT is available at www.vocrehabga.org/hsht/index.htm.
Real Communities Initiative, Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities (GCDD)
According to information provided as part of the Listening Sessions, GCDD's Real Communities Initiative works to bring people with and without developmental disabilities together to improve local communities through collective action. For people with developmental disabilities, the program works to increase access to job opportunities and workplace supports; safe, affordable, and accessible housing; and learning experiences in the same schools as their peers. The ultimate goal is for people with developmental disabilities to have more independence and participate in and contribute to their communities. More information about the initiative is available at web.me.com/gcdd/GCDD/Make_it_Real.html.
Project SEARCH, Georgia
Project SEARCH provides employment and education opportunities for individuals with significant disabilities. Georgia's program is based on the model originally launched at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center and is dedicated to workforce development that benefits individuals, communities, and workplaces, according to stakeholder input. Its one-year high school transition program includes both classroom instruction and worksite rotation followed by individualized job development, placement, coaching, and accommodation assistance. The end goal is competitive employment and independence. Currently, Georgia has 15 Project SEARCH sites statewide, in settings such as hospitals, universities, banks, and other businesses. More information about Project SEARCH is available at www.projectsearch.info.
Discovery Day, Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities (GCDD)
GCDD's annual Discovery Day brings together about 100 people representing corporations in the Atlanta metropolitan area to learn about the employment potential of people with developmental disabilities. Participants in the exchange explore a range of employment issues, including what companies are looking for in hires and the type of training required so that people with developmental disabilities can effectively prepare for forecasted jobs. More information about the program is available at web.me.com/gcdd/GCDD/Home.html.
Parent Leadership Support Project (PLSP), Georgia Advocacy Office
PLSP is a four-month program that trains parents and other concerned citizens to advocate on behalf of students with disabilities to ensure they receive fair and appropriate education and services in the public school system. According to stakeholder input, the program helps facilitate effective transition and serves as an extension of the Georgia Advocacy Office in communities across the state. More information about the Parent Leadership Project is available at www.thegao.org./training.htm.
First Work Initiative, BlazeSports, Atlanta, GA
BlazeSports is a non-profit organization that advances the lives of children and adults with physical disabilities through sports, healthy living, and the prevention of chronic health conditions. According to stakeholder input, its First Work Initiative prepares youth and young adults with physical disabilities to actively seek and secure employment for the first time by building social, interpersonal, and leadership skills. It also exposes participants to a variety of vocational settings through a network of community partners. More information about the initiative is available at www.blazesports.org.
The Prospect of Digital Inclusion, Center for Advanced Communications Policy (CACP), Georgia Tech University, Atlanta, GA
The Prospect of Digital Inclusion is an ongoing research project managed by Georgia Tech's CACP and funded by the National Council on Disabilities. According to stakeholder input, it explores how different digital technologies help people with disabilities in the job marketplace and the accessibility levels of these technologies. More information about the Prospect of Digital Inclusion is available at www.cacp.gatech.edu/newdigitalmedia.php.
Individual Placement and Support (IPS) Supported Employment, National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)
IPS Supported Employment is an 11-state trial project funded by Johnson & Johnson to improve opportunities and outcomes for people with psychiatric disabilities through supported employment. According to stakeholder input, 61 percent of people in the trials obtained employment, compared to 23 percent of those in the usual care group. Of those who secured jobs, two-thirds were in competitive employment working more than 20 hours per week, and on average, they worked for 25 weeks. The program's outcomes also indicate that supported employment costs providers less per client per year than the usual cost for outpatient and institutional days. More information about the initiative is available at www.nami.org.
Nashoba Learning Group, Bedford, MA
Nashoba Learning Group is a non-profit organization opened in 2003 that provides education and intervention services to individuals with autism and related developmental disabilities. The school has a one-to-one teacher to student ratio and serves children and young adults ages 3-22. Vocational training begins at age 14. According to stakeholder input, key aspects of the program include partnerships with local businesses and service providers and experiential learning through staff-supported volunteer opportunities. The school also has eight simulated work environments where students learn specific job skills, including those used in hotel, laundry, store, kitchen, janitorial, and office/assembly environments. More information about the school is available at www.nashobalearninggroup.org.
Outreach to Historically Black Colleges and Universities, National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education (NAFEO), Washington, DC
Through a $347,000 grant from AT&T, NAFEO is developing a pilot program intended to provide students with disabilities the opportunity to fully participate in academics and social, cultural, and political activities at historically black colleges and universities. According to information provided during the listening sessions, the program will provide these colleges and universities with the resources needed to move toward becoming disability inclusive. More information about this outreach initiative is available at www.nafeo.org.
Centers for Independent Living (CILs)
CILs are community-based, cross-disability, non-residential, non-profit agencies in communities nationwide. They provide a variety of resources to assist individuals with disabilities fully participate in all aspects of community life, including work. According to stakeholder input, CILs are particularly effective in providing employment assistance. CILs are operated by individuals with disabilities. The National Council on Independent Living (NCIL) represents CILs across the nation. More information about CILs is available at www.ncil.org.
According to information submitted during the Listening Sessions, AT&T's company-wide diversity program emphasizes recruiting, hiring, and retaining employees with disabilities. Through this program the company has take a number of steps to foster a disability-friendly corporate culture. It integrates diversity into all core operations, and employees with disabilities serve on several of AT&T's advisory panels. Through partnerships and outreach, the company proactively recruits individuals with disabilities, including returning Veterans with service-connected disabilities. It also provides accommodation assistance from the point of application onward and takes into account the accessibility of training and other employee materials, with an emphasis on universal design. More information about AT&T's disability initiatives is available at www.att.com/gen/corporate-citizenship?pid=17725.
According to stakeholder input, disability has been a part of IBM's culture since its inception, and the company hired its first employee with a disability in 1914. Today, the company's disability-friendly culture is reflected in several policies and practices, including its Human Ability and Accessibility Center, which ensures that IBM products and services are accessible to people with disabilities as customers, and a commitment to equal opportunity in employment and advancement for people with disabilities. Reflecting this, IBM developed the Accessibility Workforce Portal, which serves as a central point of information about accommodations for employees and managers worldwide. More information about IBM's disability initiatives is available at www-03.ibm.com/employment/us/diverse/equal_opportunity.shtml.
Work Incentives Network (WIN), Oregon
WIN is a benefits and work incentives planning service provided by several Oregon CILs and funded through Oregon's MIG. According to stakeholder input, WIN helps people with disabilities make informed decisions about work and their benefits, use incentives to achieve their employment goals, and navigate the benefits system once they begin working. In delivering services, WIN collaborates with Oregon State University, Portland State University, the Oregon Office of Developmental Disabilities and the Oregon Business Leadership Network, as well as neighboring Washington State in an effort to save both states time and money. More information about WIN is available at www.win-oregon.com.
Think Beyond the Label Campaign, Health and Disability Advocates (HDA), Chicago, IL
HDA is a national organization that promotes income security and improved healthcare access and services for children, people with disabilities, and low-income older adults. As part of this mission, it operates the National Consortium for Health Systems Development (NCHSD), which provides technical assistance and support to MIG projects. Of the 42 states with MIGs, 38 work with NCHSD, and recently they collaborated to develop Think Beyond the Label," a national paid media campaign promoting disability employment targeted at small- and medium-sized businesses. The campaign's Web site offers state-specific resources to assist employers in hiring people with disabilities. More information is available at www.thinkbeyondthelabel.org.
Collaborative Programs, Michigan Rehabilitation Services (MRS), Lansing, MI
Part of the Michigan Department of Energy, Labor, and Economic Growth, MRS partners with individuals as well as employers to promote positive employment outcomes for people with disabilities. According to stakeholder input, MRS serves more than 48,000 persons and 1,900 businesses each year in a state with a high poverty rate. In delivering its services, it collaborates with the VA; the Michigan Department of Human Services; Michigan Department of Corrections; state One-Stop system, and the Michigan Commission for the Blind. More information about MRS's collaborative programs is available at
Outreach to Native Americans
According to stakeholders, a number of states are implementing or enhancing services to Native Americans with disabilities. States specifically mentioned were Michigan (through MRS;
www.michigan.gov/mdcd/0,1607,7-122-25392---,00.html), Alaska (through the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation; www.labor.state.ak.us/dvr), Oklahoma (through the Department of Rehabilitation Services; www.okdrs.gov), and Maine (through the Wabanaki Vocational Rehabilitation Program; www.tacene.org/region-1-vr-agencies).
Workability in Michigan (WIM)
WIM was formed as part of the 60 Summits" project, a grassroots approach to changing North American disability benefits and workers' compensation systems. The project was an outcome of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine report, Preventing Needless Work Disability by Helping People Stay Employed," issued in 2006. The WIM summit was held in May 2009 and resulted in a large group of stakeholders to pursue best practices for Stay at Work and Return to Work, according to information provided during the Listening Sessions. More information about WIM is available at www.workabilityim.org.
Working Well Together Training and Technical Assistance Center, California
The Working Well Together Training and Technical Assistance Center is funded by the California Department of Mental Health and operated through a partnership between four organizations: California Network of Mental Health Clients, NAMI California, United Advocates for Children and Families, and the California Institute of Mental Health. According to stakeholder input, the goal of this collaborative effort is to ensure that public mental health agencies are prepared to employ multicultural clients, family members, and parents/caregivers as employees. More information about the Center is available at www.workingwelltogether.org.
Hands On/Hyatt Hospitality Training Program, Tampa, FL
In partnership with Hyatt Hotels, vocational rehabilitation, and the Florida Division of Blind Services, Hands On Educational Services offers hospitality industry training programs for people with disabilities. According to stakeholder input, the program involves two to four weeks of training in various skills, and trainees are considered to be temporary employees and paid during this period. Residential and transportation assistance are provided, when needed.
The program began in 1998 with one Hyatt in Tampa, FL. It now operates at eight hotels in Florida and three in Washington, DC. It may soon expand to Texas. More information about the program is available at www.handsoneducation.net.
Transition from School to Post-Secondary Education, New England ADA Center
The New England ADA Center, in partnership with the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University, has developed a database to better understand the experiences of youth with disabilities in high school. This database assimilates information from 30 different school districts in New England and through coordination with the National Student Clearinghouse, has the ability to track students over a period of time. According to stakeholder input, findings thus far reveal that cognitive and behavioral factors and inclusive vocational opportunities are strong determinants of success. More information about this research is available at www.adaptiveenvironments.org/neada/site/home.
Employment First Georgia, Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities
Employment First Georgia is a statewide resource promoting customized employment practices through which each individual is supported to pursue his or her own unique path to employment, a career, and participation in community life. It is a collaborative effort among many agencies to assess policy and to identify changes needed in order to promote employment as a first, not last, option for people with developmental disabilities. More information about Employment First Georgia is available at www.employmentfirstgeorgia.org.
Partnership between the Massachusetts Department of Labor and Center for Labor Market Studies, Northeastern University, Boston, MA
The Massachusetts Department of Labor and Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University collaborated to develop a series of five training sessions around the state for people involved in job development and placement activities for people with disabilities. According to information provided during the Listening Sessions, this training is based on the premise that the labor market is a social institution and focuses on relationship building with local employers. It also emphasizes assessing each individual's strengths and weaknesses and how these relate to the local job market. More information about this partnership is available at www.clms.neu.edu/projects.
Kessler Foundation, West Orange, NJ
The Kessler Foundation is a public charity dedicated to improving the lives of people with disabilities caused by stroke, multiple sclerosis, brain and spinal cord injuries, and other chronic conditions. Its funding supports rehabilitation research and vocational training and placement. During the Listening Sessions, three recently funded projects were identified: the Mosaic Regional Center for Disability Employment, led by Bergen Community College; a partnership between the New Jersey Society for Human Resource Management and Cornell University; and a Wounded Warriors career demonstration program. More information about these projects is available at www.kesslerfoundation.org.
Collaborative Programs, Maine Department of Labor
According to stakeholder input, Maine was one of the first states to co-locate vocational rehabilitation, Workforce Investment Act, and other workforce partners in the state's One-Stop system. During the Listening Sessions, four specific initiatives were highlighted: Mission Transition; Career Exploration Workshop; expansion of the Work Incentives Planning and Assistance program to offer benefits counseling; and collaboration among Maine's Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education. More information about these programs is available at www.maine.gov/labor.
I AM PWD Campaign
I AM PWD is a three-year national civil rights campaign advocating for inclusion of people with disabilities in the arts and media. It is a collaborative effort between three performers unions: the Screen Actors Guild, American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, and Actors' Equity Association. According to stakeholder input, its core goal is to attain access, inclusion, and accuracy of portrayal of people with disabilities in all media. In 2009, it sponsored the Hollywood Disabilities Forum, which resulted in a number of people with disabilities being cast in television roles. More information about I AM PWD is available at www.iampwd.org.
Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission's Greater Boston Employer Advisory Board
The Greater Boston Employer Advisory Board to the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission was established in November 1998 to assist the agency in efforts to promote employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities. It meets six times per year and comprises representatives from businesses, institutions of higher education, public agencies, and elected officials. According to stakeholder input, the board has been a successful conduit to jobs for people with disabilities. More information about the Board is available at www.mass.gov/?pageID=eohhs2agencylanding&L=4&L0=Home&L1=Government&L2=
State Employment Leadership Network (SELN)
SELN is a partnership of state agencies committed to improving employment outcomes for adolescents and adults with developmental disabilities. It was created by the National Association of State Directors of Developmental Disabilities Services in collaboration with the Institute for Community Inclusion at the University of Massachusetts. It is funded by 17 participating states and strives to enhance their capacity to develop effective initiatives that promote integrated employment for people with developmental disabilities. More information about SELN is available at www.selnmembers.org.
Appendix A: Listening Session Panel Members
- Kathleen Martinez, Assistant Secretary, Office of Disability Employment Policy, U.S. Department of Labor
- Lynnae Ruttledge, Commissioner, Rehabilitation Services Administration, U.S. Department of Education
- Richard Balkus, Associate Commissioner, Office of Program Development and Research, U.S. Social Security Administration
- Dan O'Brien, Acting Associate Commissioner, Office of Employment Support Programs, U.S. Social Security Administration
- Stephanie White, Office of Employment Support Programs, U.S. Social Security Administration
- Beverly Stone, Civil Rights and Equal Opportunity Manager, Boston Regional Office, U.S. Social Security Administration
- Pete Spencer, Regional Commissioner, U.S. Social Security Administration
- Patty Robidart, Deputy Regional Commissioner, U.S. Social Security Administration
- Carmen Moreno, Regional Communications Director, U.S. Social Security Administration
- Kathryn Holt, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
- Tandra Hodges, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
- Suzette Seng, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
- Karen Furia, National Office Coordinator, Women's Bureau, U.S. Department of Labor
- Jacqueline Cooke, Regional Administrator, Region I, Women's Bureau, U.S. Department of Labor
- Paulette Lewis, Regional Administrator, Region III, Women's Bureau, U.S. Department of Labor
- Nancy Chen, Regional Administrator, Region V, Women's Bureau, U.S. Department of Labor
- Beverly Lyle, Regional Administrator and Regional Field Coordinator, Region IV, Women's Bureau, U.S. Department of Labor
- Jenny Erwin, Regional Administrator, Region VI, Women's Bureau, U.S. Department of Labor
- Timothy Martin, Director of Special Initiatives and Programs, Employment and Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor
- Helen Parker, Regional Administrator, Region III, Employment and Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor
- John Bartlett, Director of Discretionary Programs, Region IV, Employment and Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor
- Todd Yamamoto, Director of Discretionary Programs, Region VI, Employment and Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor
- Claude Schrader, Federal Project Officer, Employment and Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor
- Corey Bulluck, Supervisor, Special Programs, Employment and Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor
- John Sebastian, Employment and Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor
- Justice Parazo, Employment and Training Administration, U. S. Department of Labor
- Patricia Shiu, Director, Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, U.S. Department of Labor
- Naomi Levin, Branch Chief, Policy Development and Procedures, Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, U.S. Department of Labor
- Claudia Gordon, Special Assistant, Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, U.S. Department of Labor
- Melissa L. Speer, Acting Regional Director, Region IV, Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, U.S. Department of Labor
- Joel Dolofsky, Veterans' Employment and Training Service, U.S. Department of Labor
- Don Watson, Veterans' Employment and Training Service, U. S. Department of Labor
Appendix B: Listening Session Dates and Locations
January 21, 2010/Dallas
DOL Region IV
For residents of Arkansas, Colorado, Louisiana, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Wyoming
Westin City Center Hotel
650 North Pearl Street, Dallas, TX
January 27, 2010/Philadelphia
DOL Region II
For residents of Delaware, Washington DC, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia
Pennsylvania Convention Center
1101 Arch Street, Philadelphia, PA
February 11, 2010/Chicago
DOL Region V
For residents of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Wisconsin
Access Living, Harry Chandler Gallery
115 West Chicago Avenue, Chicago, IL
February 16, 2010/San Francisco
DOL Region VI
For residents of Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Guam
Hotel Shattuck Plaza
2086 Allston Way, Berkeley, CA
February 24, 2010/Atlanta
DOL Region III
For residents of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee
2020 Peachtree Road NW, Atlanta, GA
March 3, 2010/Boston
DOL Region I
For residents of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands
Sheraton Boston Hotel
39 Dalton Street, Boston, MA