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The Department of Education's Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation (OSERS) will:

  • Actively enforce the new Vocational Rehabilitation regulation that eliminates extended employment, formerly known as sheltered employment, as a final employment outcome under the state vocational rehabilitation services program. An employment outcome may be counted only if an individual with a disability is working in an integrated setting in the community.

The Social Security Administration will:

  • Work in each state to provide benefit planning and assistance to beneficiaries to assist them in their efforts to work.
  • Expand the number of Employment Support Representatives (ESRs). The ESRs are trained to facilitate the efforts of people who receive SSDI and SSI benefits and want to work, and can inform beneficiaries about the potential effect of work on their Social Security benefits.

Many of these actions are identical to strategies employed in the past – interagency collaboration, emphasis on transition services, assistance to states to develop plans, and so on. These actions create the context for change. Their impact is yet to be determined.

In spite of well-intended legislation (e.g., Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Rehabilitation Act (RA), the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), and their predecessors) to address this situation, the statistics have changed little over the past 25 years.

Just as troubling, these facts persist in spite of the existence of educational and career development interventions known to make a positive difference in the lives of youth with disabilities.

Individual working in the community
Photo courtesy Sherie Wallace
Individuals working in the community
Photo courtesy Sherie Wallace

Work-based learning experiences, preferably connected to curriculum content; student-centered individualized education programs that drive instruction; family involvement in and support of education and career development activities; and linkages to individually determined support services have all been proven, by both practice and research, to lead to the education and employment success of youth with disabilities.

This is the case regardless of the nature of the disability or the degree of accommodation and support needed. In other words, we know what is needed and we know how to do it. And yet, post-school employment success and economic independence continue to be exasperatingly elusive for most youth with disabilities.

Individuals in the community
Photo courtesy Sherie Wallace
Individuals working in the community
Photo courtesy Sherie Wallace
In 2017, the Workforce Innovation Technical Assistance center and the Youth Technical Assistance Center partnered with Griffin-Hammis Associates, TransCen, Inc., Marc Gold & Associates, and Virginia Commonwealth University to develop "The Essential Elements of Customized Employment for Universal Application." The approach discussed in this document is the result of actually working with and learning from individuals with developmental disabilities. An overview of customized employment; the Discovery process; the customized employment plan; and job development that is based on the strengths, interests, and abilities of the job seeker are presented.