Saturday, March 6, 2010

Chasing Answers to Age Old Questions

I thought I would share some “sound bites” encapsulating the spirit and challenge of the Employment First movement in the United States. I take no credit for originality in framing these fundamental talking points. In fact, a number of them have been presented in one form or another by various colleagues of mine either in Minnesota or around the nation who are working toward a common vision of integrated employment in the workforce as the first, preferred option of men and women with disabilities.

I wanted to share these core principles with my readers because when examined together, they so clearly define the importance of our movement and articulate a logic model for social and economic change. Here they are:

With respect to embracing principles of universal design and redirecting our energies toward integrated employment and community living—

• Why do we feel a need to re-create what already exists in our community and workforce?

• And if it really doesn’t exist, and it’s still a good idea, then why don’t we create it to benefit everyone?

With respect to integrated employment and informed choice

• Why are 80% of Americans with disabilities not participating in the workforce and “choosing” a lifetime of dependency, segregation, and poverty?

With respect to person-centered and individualized service plans

• Why do educators and adult disability service providers say they engage “person-centered’ and “individualized service plans,” when they really support people with practices designed for groups or congregate service participation? (i.e., sheltered employment, work crews, work enclaves, etc.)

With respect to making sound public and organizational economic investments to increase and expand integrated employment outcomes—

• Why do we invest the least (our money, time, and energies) in what we say we want the most? (i.e., integrated employment at competitive wages and benefits)

With respect to new policies and practices to improve integrated employment outcomes—

• Why are we content to continue policies and implement practices that obtain integrated employment for only 20% of working age adults with disabilities?

With respect to using traditional rehabilitation vs. strengths-based, customized employment practices—

• Why do traditional rehabilitation practices intended to “change” people with disabilities continue to dominate current practice (i.e., use of vocational evaluation, work adjustment training, adult day habilitation, adult day treatment, sheltered employment, etc.) when “strengths-based” practices (i.e., discovery, customized employment, self-employment) are far more effective in identifying and negotiating ideal conditions of employment customized to fit each individual?

With respect to the use of traditional job development practices—

• Why do we exclusively use job development practices that focus on placing “job qualified" workers when such approaches obtain integrated employment for only 20% of potential job seekers with disabilities?

With respect to workforce equality and economic justice

• Why is there a minimum wage floor that applies to all American workers except job seekers and workers with disabilities?

With respect to money solving most of our problems associated with expanding integrated employment problems—

• Why do we believe our existing economic business models to operate adult disability services are sustainable in their current form?

• How do we redirect existing resources and implement new economic business models to encourage, support, and sustain integrated employment services for all?

With respect to making the business case for employment of Americans with disabilities—

• Since customized employment is by its definition a negotiation of job tasks or duties designed to meet an identified business or economic need as well as the identified interests and strengths of an individual job seeker, then why wouldn’t employers act in their self-interest to hire individuals with disabilities who can make a measured contribution?

With respect to narrowing the wide gap between vision and practice

• If we can fundamentally change what it means to be “qualified” to work in the competitive labor force through the use of discovery, customized employment, and other strengths-based practices, why not encourage and extend these opportunities to all individuals including those with complex lives and significant disabilities?

With respect to personal and professional accountability

• If you don’t like your own answers to these questions, why not seek out training or technical consultation to move in new directions?

• If you don’t like common responses to these questions, why aren’t you actively involved in the Employment First movement?

1 comment:

  1. I do not know whether it’s just me or if perhaps everyone else experiencing issues with your blog. It seems like some of the written text within your posts are running off the screen. Can somebody else please provide feedback and let me know if this is happening to them as well?