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By 1998, the number of people involved in supported employment increased from 9,800 to 140,000. A study of vocational rehabilitation outcomes for people with developmental disabilities found a number of important changes in outcomes between 1985 and 1998:

  • No significant change in either the total number of people being closed or the number of successful closures for this particular population.
  • A significant reduction in the number of closures into extended employment (sheltered workshops).
  • The number of competitive labor market closures has increased, leading to the trend of a higher percentage of successful closures being into competitive employment. This demonstrates a greater emphasis on the use of competitive employment as a preferred outcome to extended employment.
  • There has been an increase in the percent of total successful closures relying on supported employment, rising from 21.9% in 1991 to 37.5% in 1998.
  • People in extended employment earned less than half the yearly earnings for a supported employment closure. Generally speaking, people in supported employment are earning below poverty-level wages.
  • More in-depth analysis of who is receiving supported employment is needed in order to determine why their employment outcomes are significantly lower than those of people not receiving supported employment services. If, indeed there is more access to competitive employment for people who would have been served in extended employment settings, this is a positive trend. However, the challenge now is to find employment that will yield above-poverty level wages.
Individual working in the community
Photo courtesy Ann Marsden
individuals working in the community
Photo courtesy Ann Marsden