With the persistently low competitive employment rate for working-age people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD), a main focus area for the field of disability research has been on the interaction between the individual and the service system. Yet we know much less about the interaction between systems and families around employment.
Alabama has piloted the Gaining Access To Employment project, a collaborative effort between the state’s Department of Mental Health/Developmental Disabilities (MH/DD) and its Department of Vocational Rehabilitation (VR). Through this project, known as Project GATE, the two agencies work together to help local service providers use funds to support integrated employment opportunities. MH/DD and VR have a long history of partnering, including joint efforts on a supported employment workgroup, due to the strong relationships between colleagues at each department.
Case management services in Missouri’s Division of Developmental Disabilities underwent a shift from a state structure to a regional structure. Within this structure, 12 regions each serve approximately 12–15 counties. Each region has a technical assistance (TA) position designed to support each of the designated priority work areas. These include self-determination, family supports, individual supports and services, Employment First, and accessible housing.
Katahdin Friends, Inc. (KFI), headquartered in the small rural community of Millinocket, Maine, has been a service provider in this community and surrounding regions for the last 54 years. After providing segregated services for its first 20 years, KFI became an early adopter of supported employment.
Via of the Lehigh Valley is a CRP headquartered in Bethlehem, PA. Since 2008, Via and local high schools have provided customized employment services so that transition-age students graduate into well-matched, meaningful careers.
Via’s transition program is supported by funds from the Pennsylvania Department of Education. The energy of students and their families has also driven the search for innovative employment services.
Job Squad is a medium-sized CRP that provides services to individuals in 13 counties within West Virginia. In 2005, responding to customer demands, executive director Brenda Hellwig and her staff received training from Griffin-Hammis Associates to offer community employment services. A staff member proposed the idea for the blog as one way to update Job Squad’s website and promote community employment to stakeholders, including potential employers. As a collection of articles, tools and strategies, the blog provides valuable information for people in West Virginia and beyond.
Able Opportunities is a certified vendor for the state of Washington’s Department of Vocational Rehabilitation, Developmental Disabilities Administration, Division of Developmental Disability, and Department of Labor and Industry. The Work Independence Network (WIN) began in 2005 as a partnership between Able Opportunities, Harrison Medical Center, and Kitsap County Developmental Disabilities to help people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) find jobs.
LaunchAbility is a CRP that serves people with IDD in several locations throughout North Texas. LaunchAbility’s employment services program offers placement exclusively in the community.
The LaunchAbility Academy Training Program was established in collaboration with the Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (DARS) as a way to engage employers and prepare job seekers for employment.
Progressive Employment Concepts (PEC), a community rehabilitation provider with several locations in northern California, was founded in 1995 to support people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) to find employment in their communities. PEC currently supports 90 people in individual jobs. A core belief at PEC is that everyone it serves is job- ready and can work in competitive employment in their communities.
New England Business Associates (NEBA), a community rehabilitation provider (CRP) in Springfield, Massachusetts, provides individualized employment services to local youth and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. This organization sets itself apart from other employment providers in many ways, from its appearance, to the attitudes of its staff, to the manner in which it provides services.