Skip to main content

Zoom Text:

1980s: The Continuum Continues.

The Rise of Supported Employment and Assistive Technology.
The Inclusion of People with Severe Disabilities in the World of Work.

Man working at a computer
Photo courtesy Ann Marsden

The 1980s, as with other decades, saw the advance of new ideas and the continuation of older models.

  • Supported employment gained acceptance, federal support and funding.
  • The transition from school to work became a higher priority.
  • Major support for assistive technology began.
  • Most people remain trapped in the continuum.

Photo of Paul Wehman

The 1980s was the decade in which supported employment became firmly established. Several federal laws gave credence to the concept and provided funding for its implementation.

By the end of the decade, Paul Wehman states there were supported employment programs in all 50 states in the United States. Three thousand programs offered supported employment options. One million people were still involved in sheltered day programs, and 100,000 were involved in supported employment. At the beginning of the decade, only 10,000 people had been involved in supported employment.

Dr. Tom Bellamy
Dr. Tom Bellamy
Dr. David Mank
Dr. David Mank

The shifts in funding made training and technical assistance for supported employment much more widely available. The Virginia Commonwealth University's Rehabilitation Research and Training Center staff, headed by Dr. Paul Wehman, and the University of Oregon team of Dr. Tom Bellamy and Dr. David Mank made major advances possible and documented successful strategies and outcomes.