Addressing Employment for People with Disabilities
Employment is an important part of community inclusion for people with disabilities.
Ensuring that competitive integrated employment is the first option for people with disabilities will increase their employment participation rate and lead to a significant reduction in segregated work and non-work programs. Employers can also benefit by having a larger and more diverse talent pool when hiring.
Employment in integrated settings at competitive wages offers a direct pathway to greater independence and self-sufficiency for youth and adults with disabilities. For youth with disabilities, a smooth transition from education to employment is essential, but has often been particularly difficult for them and their families. And, for adults with disabilities, there has been a historical low labor force participation rate that limits their opportunities to fully contribute as colleagues, business owners, and taxpayers.
At ACL, we aim to break down these barriers by making strategic investments within states and communities as well as collaborating with our partners across federal government to create more opportunities for competitive, integrated employment for people with disabilities.
Improving Employment Opportunities
ACL seeks to advance economic security and mobility for people with disabilities, including increasing opportunities for competitive integrated employment. The Administration on Disabilities (AoD) at ACL is addressing this goal by focusing on three key areas:
- Supporting individuals with disabilities in navigating a pathway to employment in integrated settings at competitive wages to achieve greater independence and self-sufficiency.
- Supporting employers in recognizing the benefits of having a more diverse workforce by hiring people with disabilities.
- Supporting communities in recognizing the value of inclusive community living, including employment, for people with disabilities.
- Community Collaborations for Employment: A five-year grant to seven grantees (six of the seven grantees are UCEDDs). Launched in September 2021, these seven grants are designed to fund broad stakeholder collaborations that will increase community capacity to better facilitate transition of youth with developmental disabilities between schools and the community and support adults optimize their opportunities for competitive integrated employment.
- Community Based Transition Partnership Implementation Grants: A three-year implementation grant. Two of the five UCEDD grantees are operationalizing their one planning grant from the previous year focused on addressing barriers around competitive integrated employment.
- Employment Longitudinal Data Project: A collaboration with the Institute for Community Inclusion / University of Massachusetts Boston to identify trends and effectiveness of initiatives surrounding day and employment services to support the full inclusion of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
- AoD Disability Employment TA Center: Transforming Networks through System Change, Innovation & Collaboration: A cross-program, evidence-based training and technical assistance center to support AoD grantees further expand their knowledge, skills, and partnerships to improve alignment around a common goal focused on increasing competitive integrated employment and economic self-sufficiency for people with disabilities.
- Multi-Agency Task Force on Disability Employment: A federal interagency task force comprised of leaders from 11 federal agencies that are stakeholders in the employment of people with disabilities to collectively address the systemic unemployment rate of Americans with disabilities.
- Pathways to Partnership Initiative: A collaboration between staff of AoD and OSERS at the U.S. Department of Education to break down silos between independent living, vocational rehabilitation, and special education programs to support our customers as they transition to adulthood to find and sustain competitive integrated employment.
- Federal Partners in Transition: A federal interagency workgroup to support all youth, including youth with disabilities, to successfully transition from school to adulthood.
- ACL Programs Working on Employment
- Centers for Independent Living are consumer-controlled, community-based, cross-disability, nonprofit agencies that provide an array of independent living services, including help with employment.
- UCEDDs conduct research and support programs, many of which promote integrated employment for people with developmental disabilities.
- State Councils on Developmental Disabilities promote competitive integrated employment through systems change and capacity building efforts. Several Councils support Project Search, which provides internship opportunities for individuals with developmental disabilities.
- Protection and Advocacy Systems (P&As) advocate for competitive, integrated employment for people with disabilities and protect clients’ rights to be free from employment discrimination based on disability.
- State Grant for Assistive Technology Program provides resources and services that can help a person with a disability perform activities that might be difficult to navigate at home or in the workplace.
- The National Institute for Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR) has been conducting research on employment for people with disabilities and testing interventions for decades.
Historical ACL Activities
- Community Based Transition Partnership Planning Grants: A one-year planning grant. Three of the five UCEDD grantees are convening state partners focused on addressing barriers around competitive integrated employment.
- Business Prize Challenge: An Inclusive Talent Pipeline for American Business Prize Challenge: A business prize challenge to businesses to compete for cash prizes to help them expand their recruiting and retention programs to be inclusive of people with disabilities (focused on I/DD population) with leading models to get replicated to support other businesses. The winner of the prize challenge was announced in October 2021 and awarded to business that piloted an inclusive technology recruitment platform to support employers and individuals with disabilities.
- Partnership in Integrated Employment (PIE) Systems Change Grants / Evaluation: A Project of National Significance (PNS) grant to further enhance collaboration across state systems to improve employment outcomes for youth and adults with developmental disabilities.
- Profiles in Integrated Employment: This page highlights stories and best practices from agencies and states leading the way towards integrated employment for people with disabilities.