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Exploring Employment Supports (Who helps)

Many people with disabilities benefit from working with professionals and programs who specialize in supporting people with disabilities on the job. These programs vary depending on impact of the disability and funding sources. It is often challenging to know how to access services or what services are offered. Families and youth are encouraged to learn as much as they can about who can help support the employment process.

American Job Centers

American Job Centers (also known as Workforce Centers or One Stop Centers) are a key feature of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2014 (WIOA). These centers deliver a wide range of services through a network of centers in each state. They provide job training, education, and employment services at a single neighborhood location. Every individual, including those with disabilities, has the right to access the basic services offered by a Center. Services include help identifying career interests and skills; information on employment and training opportunities; job search and placement assistance; and up-to-date information on job vacancies.

WIOA Youth Programs

American Job Centers also have programs that are designed to help youth reach their career and educational goals. Services for youth age 14-21 who are in school include after-school tutoring, study skills training, and instruction to help students graduate from high school. Services and employment supports are also available for youth age 16-24 who are out of school. Other examples of services for youth include:

Youth with Disabilities

Are youth with disabilities eligible for these services? Very likely. All youth with disabilities ages 16-24 who are not attending school are eligible for out-of-school services. Youth with disabilities up to age of 21 are eligible for in-school services if they are low-income or meet other eligibility criteria. It is very likely that youth with disabilities will meet the low income criteria for in-school youth because income for youth with disabilities is determined based only on the youth’s income, not their family’s income. Any youth with a disability who is eligible for government cash assistance programs, such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI), is automatically eligible for WIOA youth services. In addition, not all youth participants in a program are required to be low income. Up to 5 percent of participants in local WIOA youth programs do not even have to meet the low income criteria.

People with disabilities have more choices in the American Job Center system than they had in the past. Individuals who need more than the basic services offered by American Job Centers can also apply for vocational rehabilitation services at the same place.

Visiting an American Job Center is a great way for youth to explore employment supports available from federal and state-funded programs. A visit makes for a great career exploration activity for a youth on an IEP, or a possible resource for a youth self-advocate looking for adult employment support options.

Workforce Centers and WIOA Links

Supported Employment

Supported Employment is for persons:

Supported employment is based on the principle that individuals with severe disabilities have the right to be employed by community businesses where they can earn comparable wages, work side-by-side with co-workers with or without disabilities, and experience all of the same benefits as other employees of the company. This idea is often referred to as “Employment First.” Supported employment assists people with severe disabilities by providing individualized supports that enable them to choose the kind of job they want and to become successful members of the workforce.

Accessing supported employment services may vary by state, but the typical path is either through county Developmental Disabilities programs or through federally-funded Vocational Rehabilitation agencies (possibly referred to as VR, DVR, or DRS in your state). Some states have separate Vocational Rehabilitation agencies for persons who are blind.

Organizations that deliver supported employment services include Day Training and Habilitation agencies (DT&H), Community Rehabilitation Programs (CRP), and Community Support Programs (CSP). Parents are strongly encouraged to gather as much information as possible about agencies that offer employment support for persons with disabilities to insure a good fit. 

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PACER Resources

Other Resources

  • APSE, the Association of Persons Supporting Employment First
    A membership organization formed to improve and expand integrated employment opportunities, services, and outcomes for persons experiencing disabilities.
    • Employment First
      This page provides links to APSE resources on the Employment First philosophy, movement, and progress.
    • Supported Employment Quality Indicators
      This document from APSE was written as a guide for job development professionals but can also be used by families and people with disabilities to help them assess the effectiveness of potential community rehabilitation providers they have the option of working with.
  • Customized Employment Resources from Griffin-Hammis Associates
    This page provides a concise description of customized employment practices with links for further reading from Griffin-Hammis Associates, an international leader in the evolution of customized employment theory, training and practice.
  • Employment First Across the Nation: Progress on the Policy Front
    A web publication from the Research and Training Center on Community Living (RTC), Institute on Community Integration presenting state Employment First policies from across the U.S. through an array of online, interactive visual features. Users can investigate the various Employment First policy approaches that states have implemented, read the actual policies, and access additional resources to advance employment of people with disabilities.
  • Office of Disability Employment (ODEP) , U.S. Department of Labor
    ODEP's mission is to develop and influence policies and practices that increase the number and quality of employment opportunities for people with disabilities.
    • Customized Employment
      A description of customized employment policy and practices
    • Self-Employment & Entrepreneurship
      ODEP resource list to encourage and support self-employment and entrepreneurship among individuals with disabilities
    • Employment First
      This page reports on the priority of the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) to invest in systems change efforts that result in increased community-based, integrated employment opportunities for individuals with significant disabilities as represented by the national movement called Employment First.