November23,2016

An Important Update from Disability.gov

Dear Blog Readers,

Beginning December 16, 2016, the Disability.gov website and its associated social media accounts, including Disability.Blog, will no longer be available.  Stay tuned and look for future blogs on disability employment from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy.  We will be blogging from a new channel soon.

We encourage you to visit the Campaign for Disability Employment (CDE) and follow the campaign on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn for the latest news and information on disability employment.

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November10,2016

Concerns about Accommodation

Paula Reuben Vieillet, President and Founder, Employment Options Inc.

By Guest Blogger Paula Reuben Vieillet, President and Founder, Employment Options Inc.

Your interview is in two hours! You are as ready as you will be to meet the hiring manager with one exception. Even though you are qualified for this job, this will be the first time you interview as a person with a disability. This time you may need accommodations to perform your job.

Accommodation is a big word and means different things to different people and employers. You may wonder when to bring up the subject of accommodations or if you should bring it up at all. Here are some helpful ideas.

Read the Job Description

Some employers will list the actual physical and emotional requirements of the job. For example: “Must be able to lift 40 pounds regularly,” or “ability to remain professional under stressful situations.”

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October31,2016

E3: Georgia Career Pathways to Work

Nick Perry, Statewide Autism and Developmental Disabilities Services Coordinator, Georgia Vocational Rehabilitation Agency

By Guest Blogger Nick Perry, Statewide Autism and Developmental Disabilities Services Coordinator, Georgia Vocational Rehabilitation Agency

Spurred on by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) states are experiencing a renewed push to support individuals with disabilities in finding and maintaining integrated, competitive employment.  While vocational rehabilitation agencies are tasked with serving those with the most significant disabilities, historically they have been unable to effectively achieve this goal.  Regulations such as WIOA and the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services’ Home and Community-Based Settings Rules have given weight to movements like Employment First.

The Georgia Vocational Rehabilitation Agency (GVRA) understands that a cultural shift must take place within the state in order to make employment the first, or even a viable, option for individuals with disabilities.  Having that understanding, GVRA applied for and was awarded $4.7 million by the U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) to improve employment opportunities for students and youth with disabilities. Georgia’s Career Pathways to Work: Explore, Engage and Employ (E3) is a partnership with Georgia Department of Education, Poses Family Foundation, Georgia State University Center for Leadership in Disability, Burton Blatt Institute at Syracuse University, Parent to Parent of Georgia and Georgia Work Workforce Development. The grant seeks to target 3,000 students and youth aged 14-24 over five years who are currently in or out-of-school in seven school districts.  The goals of the E3 program are to connect students and youth with disabilities to pathways that lead to careers, increase the number of customized career pathways that lead to employment for youth with disabilities, to increase the number of youth who achieve integrated employment, and to increase their earnings through successful completion of the program.

Students must be allowed to explore the world of employment and possible career goals, and for that to happen, we must meet them where they are.  Most youth are in school.  For that reason, in October 2014, GVRA Leadership elected to no longer require Local Education Agencies to fund Collaborative Agreements.  Transition services by law are available to all students without requiring the schools to pay $13,000 for a dedicated VR Counselor.  The E3 Social Media Technologist is responsible for the E3 App and Website being developed and implemented.  The goal of the app and website is to engage students and youth with disabilities through technology and social media.  This will give young people incentives and points for completing Career Exploration Assessments.  These assessments will serve as a type of Self-Discovery, and help determine skills, abilities, passions, and interests in particular career clusters.  Among a plethora of strategies, GVRA will also utilize a video series featuring youth, parents, teachers, service providers, employers, and GVRA staff highlighting the E3 program.  Also during this “Exploration” phase, students will be introduced to the concept of soft skills and how they relate to employment.

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October18,2016

Paraquad Embraces New Solutions to Improve Employment Outcomes for People with Disabilities

Aimee Wehmeier, President and CEO, Paraquad

By Guest Blogger Aimee Wehmeier, President and CEO, Paraquad

As we celebrate National Disability Employment Awareness Month, Paraquad joins with many other organizations in recognizing the ongoing, uphill battle to achieve parity in the workplace. In fact, and alarmingly, since the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) became law in 1990, employment opportunities for people with significant disabilities have improved little, if at all.

There are many reasons for this lack of progress. Employers are reluctant to hire people with disabilities out of unfounded fears of lack of productivity and of high costs for accommodations and liability insurance. Youth with disabilities may not be prepared to enter the workforce and individuals who acquire disabilities may not have the support to start new careers. Of course, many people also face the difficult challenge of balancing their interest in working with the need to maintain income eligibility for benefits.

These challenges have been around for a long time. So what are some new solutions that Paraquad is utilizing to improve outcomes?

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October13,2016

From Litigation to Leadership: How a Lawsuit Catalyzed Tennessee’s Transformation to Pacesetting the Employment First Movement

Jeremy Norden-Paul, State Director of Employment and Day Services, Tennessee Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

By Guest Blogger Jeremy Norden-Paul, State Director of Employment and Day Services, Tennessee Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (DIDD)

From iconic Nashville venues like the Grand Ole Opry to small businesses in rural counties, employers across Tennessee have discovered first-hand the many benefits of hiring people with disabilities. This is no small feat, and Tennessee is proud to now be a leader in the Employment First movement. However, what people might not know is our state has experienced pretty significant changes in recent years, and much of what we have accomplished is rooted in where we started.

In 1923 our state opened the Tennessee Home and Training School for Feeble-Minded Persons, which later became the Clover Bottom Developmental Center. At the peak of its operation, Clover Bottom housed more than 1,500 people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and was one of four state-run institutions across Tennessee. Looking back, it can be difficult to fathom why an institution would ever be considered an acceptable living situation for someone with a disability. After all, we know institutions are isolated, segregated, and fundamentally limit the opportunity for people to experience employment or community life. But institutions actually played an important role in that era; there were no other support models for people with disabilities at the time, and typically the only alternatives were living at home with family (which had its own barriers) or becoming homeless. Tennessee was not alone in this practice either; by the 1960s there were nearly 200,000 people with disabilities living in state-run institutions across the country.

Very fortunately, over the years we realized there are much better options for people with disabilities. During the 1980s there was a strong push for a new community model, which supported people with disabilities in traditional house settings and provided more opportunities to engage in community life. With the emergence of this model, the number of people living in Tennessee institutions declined dramatically. However, it was not until the 1990s that the movement to close our institutions reached a fever pitch.

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