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Consistent with the concept of the continuum and the principle of least restrictive environment, through training and skill acquisition, program participants moved through the continuum. The amount of support provided was attached to the setting, not the person. If an individual needed less support, he or she would move to another program location or work environment.

Supported employment was being successfully used for people with severe disabilities in some locations. By and large, however, people with severe disabilities were not seen as ready for even supported employment. Supported employment was another step along the continuum for people who required less support.

Individual working in the community
Photo courtesy Ann Marsden
Individual working in the community
Photo courtesy Ann Marsden

This began to significantly change with legislative support in the 1990s. But by the end of the 1980s, change was very gradual. In 1990, just over one quarter of the individuals served in integrated employment by community rehabilitation programs (both competitive and supported) were people with severe disabilities.

Of those in supported employment services, only 13% were people with severe or profound disabilities. In 1990, 82% of the day and employment services provided by MR/DD agencies were segregated and the number of new individuals entering segregated day and employment services in 1991 was greater than the number entering integrated employment.

The Modified Continuum of the 80s

continuum chart