2006 Conference General Sessions

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INTEGRATING ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY IN THE CUSTOMIZED EMPLOYMENT MODEL

Presenter #1

Carolyn Phillips
Georgia Department of Labor — Tools for Life
1700 Century Circle, Ste. 300
Atlanta
Georgia
30345
USA
Day Phone: 404—638—0388 /
Fax:
Email: carolynpphiilips@mindspring.com

In this session, we will explore the customized employment model, successful steps to integration of assistive technology and lessons learned along the way.
Complete Paper: Customized employment often improves the quality of employment outcomes for people with disabilities resulting in competitive jobs, in integrated employment settings in the community, that pay at least minimum wage. Customized employment services may include strategies such as job carving, self—employment, supported employment, job restructuring, providing natural supports, and other job development strategies that are individually determined and customized to the needs of the individual. Assistive technology strategies and solutions provide a bridge for many individuals to be successful in the customized employment environments.
• The Workforce Investment Act of 1998 (WIA) mandated an integrated, customer driven system designed to link those who needed and wanted jobs with employers who needed their skills. One of the most fundamental aspects of WIA is an emphasis on customer choice as the driving force behind employment decisions. As states strived for compliance with WIA, Georgia adopted the goal of “A job for every Georgian and a Georgian for every job” (GA. State Unified Plan for Implementation of WIA)
• Implementation of WIA requires an extensive collaboration between major departments and divisions of state and federal entities that can help customers achieve their chosen employment goals.
The Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP), an agency of the U.S. Department of Labor, established a Customized Employment initiative to build the capacity of workforce systems to serve all customers, including individuals with disabilities. The strategies developed through this initiative can assist all workforce customers who have complex needs and may require more individual assistance to achieve their employment goals. The Customized Employment initiative also focuses on incorporating universal strategies into all aspects of workforce services. The Georgia Department, of Labor and the Tools for Life, Georgia’s AT Act Program, have worked with projects that are implementing Customized Employment initiatives and have learned valuable lessons from this experience.
According to ODEP, “Customized Employment planning is distinct from many other planning approaches in that the issue of job development is discussed and detailed within the plan, rather than being handled simply through the relationships and contacts of a job developer. Information used during plan development is based on the information discovered by and with the applicant.”
ODEP’s features of Customized Planning:
1. The job seeker is fully involved in the planning process, decides who will participate, and directs their own blueprint for job development.
2. The plan should be developed with the job seeker’s vision of their interests and career goals as the primary focus, as determined through exploration.
3. The focus is on the jobseeker’s preferences, talents, life experiences, and dreams, rather than their challenges or limitations.
4. Family, friends, and natural social networks serve as a secondary source of input, opinions, and support. The job seeker is always the primary source of
information.
5. Concerns and complexities are considered solvable through negotiation and support, and must not become reasons to rule out career options.
6. The planning process always focuses on obtaining community-based, integrated employment that pays a competitive wage.
In pursuit of employment for all, GDOL views the integration of persons with severe disabilities into this system as both essential and challenging. Recognizing the significance of this population, Georgia Department of Labor Commissioner, Michael Thurmond said that “Persons with disabilities are an unutilized resource for workforce recruitment that must not be overlooked” (Atlanta Hospitality Association Industry Summit, May 25, 2000) . Although this population is still underrepresented in the nation’s workforce, significant strides have been made during the past two decades (e.g. Olmstead decision, The Americans with Disabilities Act, The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, The Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1992) . Assistive technology and customized employment has ‘expanded the options so that individuals with severe disabilities are working at real jobs in the community and experiencing the benefit of competitive employment.


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