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At the same time, employers continued to gain experience with the employment contributions of people with less severe disabilities. The federal initiative in the 1960s opened many doors. The ARC National On-the-Job Training Project also began in 1964 but really produced results in the 1970s.

From 1969 to 1979, it placed 25,000 individuals in competitive employment. Most of the workers were retained by employers who were willing to provide training. In 1987 The Arc's On-The-Job Training Project changed its name to National Employment and Training Program (NETP) in order to reflect its expanded scope. In 1987, the NETP encompassed such activities as supported employment, professional and volunteer training, job development and placement, and more.

Man working a saw
Photo courtesy William Bronston, M.D.
Men working a saw
Photo courtesy
William Bronston, M.D.

For most people with developmental disabilities in the 1970s, the two streams – day activity centers/sheltered workshops and competitive employment – continued to be the major options. Training-on-the-job opened the doors for some who might not have worked their way along the continuum into community jobs.

People with severe disabilities, however, were still seen as benefiting only from day activity centers. They were not likely to move along the continuum.

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A third stream, however, began to emerge in the 1970s that would offer, over time, a wealth of employment opportunities for people with severe disabilities. This third stream combined a support technology for people with severe disabilities and a value base that insisted that they have access to community opportunities.

People in a factory
Photo courtesy William Bronston, M.D.
People at work
Photo courtesy William Bronston, M.D.

The value base for real work for real wages in integrated settings began to evolve in the 1970s through the work of visionaries such as Marc Gold, Lou Brown, Tom Bellamy, and Paul Wehman. Research and demonstration work at university centers (especially, Oregon, Wisconsin and Virginia) supported people with severe disabilities to do real work and gain competitive employment.

The idea of supported employment and the term, "job coach" emerged from this work. The demonstration work focused on supporting adults in both employment and educational programs that looked forward to employment for people with severe disabilities.