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Bridges 2018 Masthead

Volume IV, Issue 3 • Fall 2018

This issue of Bridges highlights Employment

To view a pdf version of this issue, please click here


Words ROC EmployABILITY in foreground with Rochester skyline in background

Employment is the one sector (of the ADA) we have not been able to move the needle on, after all these years. The unemployment rate is still the same as the time we started, 27 years ago.
    - Senator Tom Harkin

Self-advocates, family members, government officials, business partners, and community representatives gathered for the Roc EmployABILITY summit at The Strong on October 4. Participants were challenged to brainstorm strategies to decrease poverty and increase employment for people who have disabilities in our community. Senator Tom Harkin, author of the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), was the keynote speaker. A prevalent theme of his speech was the need to raise expectations for people who have disabilities.

Photo of Jeiri Flores and retired Senator Tom HarkinSenator Harkin cited the national 33% disability employment rate and Rochester’s 25% disability employment rate as “a national disgrace.” According to the Rochester Area Community Foundation’s 2015 poverty report, “the poverty rate was almost 10 points higher for people with disabilities in Rochester, making Rochester’s disabled community the poorest in the nation when compared to the 75 largest metropolitan areas.” The City of Rochester’s low graduation rate for students with disabilities “perpetuates the cycle of poverty.”

Senator Harkin proposed two solutions to help counter the dismal statistics: youth preparedness and private sector commitments to offer more competitive integrated employment. He described the need for early work experiences and how people with disabilities don’t usually apply for competitive employment because they often have been “battered with low expectations.”

Senator Harkin shared a story of his brother, Frank, who was deaf. Harkin described his brother’s transition from working as a baker, a job he disliked, to a machine production shop worker, his dream job. A bakery customer,who happened to own a machine parts company, discovered that Frank liked to work with machines. The customer offered Frank a job, and Frank immediately took off his apron as a means of accepting the job offer.

Read more of Highlights of ROC EmployABILITY

The senator also told the story of Emily Hillman, who was “pipelined into a dead-end sheltered workshop job” in Iowa. Emily told her mother she didn’t like what she was doing: she wanted to be a barista. With her parents’ support, Emily eventually learned to be a barista and opened up a coffee shop. Today, Em’s Coffee Company employs five people, offers not only coffee but sandwiches and sweets, and serves as a local gathering place. A photo of Emily with President Obama hangs in her coffee shop, among other photos of Emily with notable friends and visitors. Senator Harkin mused, “How many more Emily Hillmans are there out there?”

Among other notable summit speakers were Dr. Cedric Alexander, Deputy Mayor for the City of Rochester; Andy Imparato, Executive Director of the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD); NYS Senator Robert Ott, Chairman of the Standing Committee on Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities; Luticha Doucette, ADA Coordinator for the City of Rochester; Susan Hetheringon, PhD., Director of Strong Center for Developmental Disabilities (SCDD); and Colin Garwood, President/CEO of Starbridge.

Facilitated breakout sessions focused on systems of support, transition, business, policy, transportation, and poverty. Each group compiled a list of recommendations to address the unique problems presented in their session.

The summit was sponsored collaboratively by Starbridge and Strong Center for Developmental Disabilities. Colin Garwood reflected on the summit, “Starbridge is proud to partner with SCDD to bring this important event to Rochester. It lays the foundation for vital work that needs to be done in the areas of poverty and unemployment for people with disabilities.”

Voices — A View from Where I Sit

by Jeiri Flores

Jeiri Flores

Searching for and obtaining a job as person with a disability is like trying to play an impeccable game of Tetris, the puzzle video game. You have to be the best candidate for the position; your work environment has to be accommodating; and most importantly, you have to be able to create some sort of balance between the services you receive, your health, income, and health insurance. If at any time, any of these pieces land in the wrong place on your Tetris board, you stand to initiate a ripple of destruction. But honestly, for an opportunity to play our best game of Tetris, we’d all take that chance; we’d dream bigger and strive to make all the pieces fit together.


Voices — Interview with Jonathan Payne

Interview conducted by Jeiri Flores

Jonathan Payne 

Q: Tell me about yourself.

A: I’m a poet, scholar, gentleman and a creator. I am 21, Black, Puerto Rican, European, little bit of Jewish, African, and Native American.

Q: Who is a part of your support circle?

A: My support circle is mainly God, my mother, my grandpa, my grandma, my brother, and definitely my dog.

Q: What is your current title?

A: I am a receptionist clerk at Strong Center for Developmental Disabilities (SCDD).

Q: How did you find this position?

A: I found it through ACCES-VR who connected me to Project SEARCH®. My first internship with Project SEARCH® was as an office assistant. I loved it so much that I went to the director of SCDD, Dr. Hetherington, and told her, “I would like to work here for you,” and she said, “Bring me a resume and I’ll interview you.” And so I did by the following week, and then I had to wait a couple months. I finally started August 14, 2017. A whole year has passed and I still feel the same as day one. I feel great. I feel like I belong here. I don’t think I’d want to work anywhere else but here because I have a personal connection to working here, considering that we’re doing the right thing for those with disabilities, and my brother and I have autism.

Read more of Interview with Jonathan Payne

Q: Did you look for a job before participating in Project SEARCH®?

A: No I didn’t. I was pretty depressed and all I wanted to do was stay home. Then out of nowhere. I just decided, “You know what, fine, I’ll go to Project SEARCH,” because that’s what my ACCES-VR counselor told me. She said, “You’ll be going to a hospital and interning there, doing work and learning skills.” So I got off my bed, got dressed, and I began there midyear.

Q: Do you often disclose that you have autism? How does that work for you?

A: I don’t really tell everybody. I think it depends on how connected I am with that person. It’s like, do they really need to know or not?

Q: What is your dream job?

A: My first dream job was actually going into the military and the one before that was architecture. But now I don’t think I need to think of the dream job because I’m living one right now.

Q: What is your favorite thing about your job?

A: My favorite part is every time I accept the challenge and I get it done. Every day I set a challenge for myself to finish as much work as possible.

Q: Have you made a lot of friends through your job?

A: Well there’s a Jeiri Flores who is interviewing me right now. She’s cool. Derek “Awesome Nerd” is a kind of a father figure. He’s cool and so are some more of my other coworkers.

Q: What are your goals for the future?

A: I think to improve on something every day and if I fully improve on that, improve on something else. I also need to balance my creative passions with my job and income.

Q: If you had any piece of advice for a Project SEARCH® grad or someone with a disability who is looking for a job, what would it be?

A: I think if you haven’t been through Project SEARCH, go through Project SEARCH and if things don’t work out or if you’re over the age limit, go to Job Club. (Job Club is a program of Strong Center for Developmental Disabilities that provides a network for social and technical support in developing various job-related skills.) Take the knowledge you learned and put your best foot forward. Get your resume out there as much as you can and go for something that you’re going to love and enjoy. Set a goal for a job that you can work up to earn enough money. Maybe take a college course. Take the road wherever it will take you or wherever you want to take it.

Learn more about:

ACCES-VR http://www.acces.nysed.gov/vr

Project SEARCH® https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/strong-center-developmental-disabilities/programs/project-search.aspx

Disclaimer: this interview is a transcription and some answers are edited for brevity and clarity.

Barriers to Employment

What gets in the way of employment? A panel addressed this at Roc EmployABILITY summit. Here’s what the panel identified as barriers to employment:

  • Attitudes towards people with disabilities; businesses are not always aware of the disability experience
  • Lack of conversation between disability community and business community
  • Legislation that needs to be updated
  • Transportation
  • Funding for job readiness programs and employment initiatives
  • No easy pathway off of Social Security
  • Job search process itself can be overwhelming
  • Discriminatory language on job applications
  • Medical conditions
  • Challenge of getting first job when you don’t have any work experience on your resume

 Image of African American man using walking stick

Employment Goals on the IEP

Did you know that your child’s IEP includes a section for postsecondary goals, including employment?

The IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) requires transition services on the IEP (Individualized Education Program) to be in effect when the child turns 16, or younger if determined appropriate by the IEP Team, and updated annually. The IEP’s Transition Services must include:

  1. Appropriate measurable postsecondary goals based upon age appropriate transition assessments related to training, education, employment, and, where appropriate, independent living skills; and
  2. The transition services (including courses of study) needed to assist the child in reaching those goals.

Examples of measurable postsecondary goals in the area of employment.

  • After graduation, Paulo will work 20 plus hours a week at the local grocery store and use temporary supports through Vocational Rehabilitation.
  • Given a whole task instruction and a task analysis for bagging groceries, Paulo will demonstrate the steps in the task analysis with 80% accuracy and no more than one verbal prompt weekly by (specific date).

Source: Center for Parent Information and Resources http://www.parentcenterhub.org/transition-goals/#postsec
 Stock photo young woman working


What is a Reasonable Accommodation?

Under Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a reasonable accommodation is a modification or adjustment to a job, the work environment, or the way things are usually done during the hiring process. These modifications enable a person with a disability to have an equal opportunity not only to get a job, but successfully perform their job tasks to the same extent as people without disabilities.Young man with Down syndrome working

Examples of reasonable accommodations:

  • Physical changes: Installing a ramp or modifying a rest room; modifying the layout of a workspace
  • Accessible and assistive technologies: Ensuring computer software is accessible; providing screen reader software; using videophones to facilitate communications with colleagues who are deaf
  • Accessible communications: Providing sign language interpreters or closed captioning at meetings and events; making materials available in Braille or large print
  • Policy enhancements: Allowing a service animal in a business setting; adjusting work schedules so employees with chronic medical conditions can go to medical appointments and complete their work at alternate times or locations

Source: U.S. Dept. of Labor, Office of Disability Employment, https://www.dol.gov/odep/

Employment Gap for People with Disabilities

According to a 2016 report of the National Conference of State Legislatures, “a striking employment gap persists between Americans with and without disabilities. At nearly 20 percent of the population, people with disabilities are one of the nation’s largest minority groups. Yet the most recent U.S. disability employment statistics show that only 20 percent of people with disabilities are participating in the workforce, compared to 69.1 percent of people without disabilities.”

Source: http://www.ncsl.org/research/labor-and-employment/employing-people-with-disabilities.aspx

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month

Reflecting a commitment to a robust and competitive American labor force, the 2018 National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) theme is “America’s Workforce: Empowering All.” Observed each October, NDEAM celebrates the contributions of workers with disabilities and educates about the value of a workforce inclusive of their skills and talents.

Source: https://www.dol.gov/odep/topics/ndeam/

October is also Down Syndrome Awareness Month

2018 Down Syndrome Awareness Month sign



Employment Issues for People with Disabilities

State-by-State Employment Rank

Ability Jobs

Five Moore Minutes - website about Inclusive Education



From the Editor

Close up photo of Maria Schaertel

Why is employment important to people who have disabilities? The best way to answer this is to ask why work is important to anyone. In addition to a paycheck, what can work offer? Work provides:

  • A wider circle of social interaction beyond our family and friends
  • A chance to use our strengths and pursue interests
  • The satisfaction of pursuing and achieving a professional goal, however small or big that may be
  • Being a part of a community working toward a common goal
  • An opportunity to learn new skills as the job progresses or as the need comes up
  • An opportunity to mentor co-workers
  • A challenge for us, either physically or mentally
  • The experience of seeing the impact we have on our customers or clients

– Maria Schartel



Publication Information

This newsletter is published by
1650 South Avenue, Suite 200
Rochester, NY 14620
(585) 546-1700

Funding is partially provided by a Family Support Services Grant by the OPWDD (Office for People With Developmental Disabilities) and by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services.

Publication within this journal of articles and information should not be considered an endorsement by Starbridge and/or the funders.

EDITOR: Maria Schaertel

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