ODEP - Office of Disability Employment Policy
Integrated Employment Toolkit
Integrated Employment Driven by State Policy in Washington
Integrated Employment - Shared Advantages
The presumption of employability has been a pillar of recent federal legislation, including the Rehabilitation Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. That is, federal law presumes that any one with any disability can work given the opportunity and support. However, employment outcomes for people with significant disabilities do not yet match legislative intent. Throughout the nation, the rates of integrated employment of people with intellectual and other developmental disabilities remain very low compared to any other categorical group.
The state of Washington, however, is notable for its longstanding commitment to develop and implement policy that leads to integrated employment. In 2009, for example, over 3,000 people earned wages in integrated jobs, earning over $24,000,000. In a recent national review of states, Washington led the way with over 67% of people served by the state's system of developmental disabilities services in integrated employment. Several key policies have made this possible.
In the early 1980's the state published the County Guidelines, the first clear policy that formally established integrated employment as the primary outcome for people served in its Developmental Disabilities service system. Revised several times over the years, the Guidelines continue to state that programs and serves should presume that all people can work and that work outcomes are expected.
Working Age Adult Policy
The Working Age Adult Policy establishes employment supports as the primary use of state employment/day service funds for adults of working age. It applies for all adults eligible for Department of Developmental Disabilities services. It is expected that all field staff of the state Department, all counties under contract with the state, and all vendors of employment services adhere to this policy. Services that do not support integrated employment can only be authorized by exception to policy.
VR/DD state agency collaboration
There is a long history of collaboration and shared funding between the state Divisions of Developmental Disabilities (DDD) and Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) that supports integrated employment service. The state was an early leader in defining the relationship between these two entities. DVR continues its role in funding evaluation, job development and placement, and early on-the-job training. DDD commits to funding any long term support necessary for mutual service recipients.
Transition Service Integration
There is an increasing emphasis on services that result in youth with disabilities transitioning seamlessly from school to adult employment. This requires that schools, DVR, County Departments of Developmental Disabilities, and employment service vendors collaboratively plan for and jointly deliver integrated employment services while students are still in school. These services ideally result in youth having integrated jobs before school completion with supports in place for the youth to continue in these jobs after school exit. Several counties have very effectively initiated this type of transition program. In King County, for example, in the years between 2006 through 2009, over 65% of youth enrolled in the program exited school with adult employment in place.
Employment First Goals
Many other states have resolved to implement policies that promote integrated employment with earnings at or above the minimum wage as the first option of service for individuals with intellectual and other developmental disabilities. "Employment First" is the name adopted to reflect this policy initiative. The state of Washington's Working Age Adult Policy represents the first Employment First policy in the country, in place since 2006. Using this policy framework the Washington Initiative for Supported Employment has set a goal of doubling the current number (3,000) in integrated employment by 2015.