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The 1990s: Presumed Employability, Natural Supports, Careers and Self Employment.

During the late 1980s and through the 1990s, supported employment grew in importance.

The research showed supported employment was the most effective employment strategy for people with significant disabilities. Individuals who participate in supported employment generally have substantially greater earnings and more community interaction than their counterparts in sheltered workshops.

They report increased satisfaction from their work experience, and find it to be economically and socially rewarding.

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

Federal policy and funding continued to shift in favor of supported employment, at least as an option to be encouraged. The 1992 Amendments to the Rehabilitation Act made some significant changes:

  • A shift to presuming the employability of most individuals with disabilities. State agencies would have to rebut that presumption to exclude someone from eligibility.
  • Provided for choice of services and service providers.
  • Emphasized careers, not just entry jobs.
  • Included natural supports as an "extended service option'" (thus rooting the concept in best practices or quality services).

By placing an emphasis on competitive outcomes for individual with disabilities, the 1992 Amendments went beyond the anti-discrimination focus of the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act. The Amendments promised increased use of Title I, section 110 General Funds for increased access to supported employment for people with more severe disabilities.

Individuals in the community
Photo courtesy Ann Marsden