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RSA and supported employment.

RSA and Supported Employment

The Rehabilitation Services Administration's Supported Employment Panel of Experts was convened early in 1989 to help establish an agenda for the successful continuation of supported employment. Accordingly, various subcommittees were formed and formulated ideas and ultimately objectives for implementation. Eight objectives from the Work Plan. They have been shaped by the visions and the ideals of the individuals and agencies involved. The process has been interactive, with both visions and recommendations shaped by the dialogue that has occured.

National Action Plan

A measure of life's opportunities is built on the various one has of posibilities. For people with disabilities, the visions have been painfully acquired over years of hardship, repression and segregation, We know where we were twenty years ago and the progress we have made. Our challenges spotlight our visions:

Having and Respecting


Our vision for the next decade includes all people with disabilities having rights to:

* make choices as to whether and how they take part in the economic and social life of the community;

* exercise choice in planning and developing careers;

* full and decisive participation in planning, directing and evaluating services delivered on their behalf; and

* sufficient resources to: a) exercise their right to supports of their own choosing; b) meet their responsibilities to participate and contribute to community life; and c) do so in the employment and community of their choice.

Our vision for the next decase includes respect for the rights of all people. Respect will be evident when the following components of our vision are realized and when communities accommodate and respond to the dreams of people with disabilities to be full participants and contributors in the community.

From Unemployment to


Until now, most prople with disabilities have been unemployed or underemployed.

By the end of the decade, we see a different pattern--employment will be available to all who are interested in working and using their skills to contribute to the life of the community. All who want to work will recieve the amount and types of support needed.

Purposeful Funding

Until now, many funding options have fostered dependency and inactivity which has led many in society to believe those with disabilities have no abilities.

By the end of the decade, we see the systematic and overwhelming dedication of funds to assure independence and interdependence, productivity and contribution, integration and inclusion. Funding will focus on outcomes, practical responses to individual needs and flexible responses.

From Fad to

Comprehensive Reponse

Until now, supported employment has been regarded by some as a fad, an add-on, or a new line item in an agency's budget.

By the end of the decade, we see supported employment, and its partner concept of supported community involvement, as the source of security. Already in some communities, supported employment is not a fad. It is a shift from continuum thinking. It is a practical approach to supporting and teaching in the community.

From Square Pegs in Round

Holes to Custom Fits

Historically, people with sever disabilities were often served in institutional settings where individual preferences and opportunities often were not addressed,

By the end of the decade, we see services and supports which are personalized andcustomized. They are made to order for the individual they are intended to assist. Support (and service) will be seen as whatever assistance and adaptations are required--whatever it takes to secure and retain employment. And through greater or total control over funding, people with disabilities will determine the nature of the fit required, and how well what is delivered meets their ondividual requirements.

From Special Services to

Community Fabric

Until now, supported employment has been provided by human service or rehabilitation agency staff.

By the end of the decade, we see businesses and employers developing their own capacity and willingness to accommodate and assist people with disabilities to become and remain employees.

Building on existing patterns of supervision and support in the work place, new concepts will develop which recognize people with disabilities as a natural part of the work place. Private employers will be primarily responsible for recruitment, hiring, training, supporting and dismissing employees.

From Jobs to Careers

Until now, the search is often for one job for an individual--usually in service industries.

By the end of the decade, we see a focus on career planning and access to a full range of jobs and career opportunities in all types of work settings. Some individuals will choose to develop careers in some types of work; others will have careers marked by diversity and change; and others will choose to blend work (part time or seasonal) with other types of community participation.

We see communities become aware of the skills and talents of people with disabilities as they use their own skills and talents to welcome and support.

From Presence to Inclusion

Until now, we have only begun to appreciate the meaning and value of integration. For many, integration has meant being present in natural settings, being with other citizens on the several occasions typically occuring in our communities.

For others, integration means interacting with other citizens. Individuals with disabilities rarely have the opportunity to know and be know by people in a wide variety of situations--the conditions which are necessary for all individuals to develop a range of relationships of varying depth. All individuals need a range of intimate relationships, from superficial acquitances to intimate friends and family.

By the end of the decade, we see the places and occasions of work serving as one of many opportunities for people with disabilities to develop a number of relationships of varying depth.

We envisage a level of participation in natural settings that results in the same range of options enjoyed by persons who are not disabled. We see people with disabilities having memberships in the formal and informal groups and activities associated with work settings. We see individuals exercising real choice among a variety of relationships with others.

We see ordinary citizens getting to know individuals with disabilities by their names, talents and eccentricities, and becoming involved with them as a result.

We see services and supports focusing on relationships as important outcomes.

Remove the Barriers and

Insert the Supports

Until now, the major barrier to employment for people with disabilities was a belief that many people were unable to work. We were not very creative in figuring out ways to support people in work. We did not know how to do a job which many thought neither possible nor desirable.

Now, people with all types of disabilities are working. Many people once considered unemployable are now holding paying jobs. They are doing so in all kinds of communities--large and small, rural and urban.

Supported employment has emerged rapidly in just a few years. Available data and people from different perspective acknowledge the value of integrated employment with long term support. For example...

* "supported employment is expanding and is bringing about improvements in wages, integration and hours of employment." (NARF, 1989, p. 58)

* "virtually all integrated work participants have a positive attitude about their job." (Whitehead, 1988)

* "integrated employment is universally accepted as a right of the individual and a responsibility of society." (Whitehead, 1988)

* "supported employment is feasible, desirable and cost effective." (Center on Human Policy, 1988, p. 10)

In the face of widespread success, however, major barriers continue to exists to the widespread and systematic development of this strategy in the lives of individuals across this country;

* Supported employment, at present, is not available in many localities throughout the nation. Thus, services throughout the nation need to be expanded.

* Medicaid continues to be a strong incentive for funding programsthat are the opposite of supported employment.

* At the individual level, both perceived and real work disincentives pose barriers.

* Employers do not know about supported employment or people with disabilities. Many are inhibited about getting involved.

* Supported employment requires collaboration among state agencies at an increased level.

These barriers must be removed of we are to realize the vision. And, supports must be in their place. A major requirement is a supportive value base promoting supported employment. To achieve our vision, we require state systems which act on the basis of these values:

* Individuals receive the support and respect they require to make informed choices about jobs, careers and support.

* Participation, integration, inclision and relationships are promoted in state systems.

* Natural community settings are the targeted environments. Support and assistance is provided in ways that encourage natural support.

* Services that creates boundaries between individuals and community integration are not acceptable.

Action will be required on a number different levels:

* Developing coordinated state plans among various agencies which target valued outcomes and mandating action to operationalize values into measured performance.

* Enccouraging individuals leaving schools and institutions to go directly into employment and other opportunites for community involvement in natural settings.

* Developing flexible processes and guidelines which favor individual choice. Among other things, this means moving responsibility for developing and implementing services for individuals as close as possible to the individual. Individual choice will require risk-taking and innovation at the local level. When appropriate, assistance in making such choices shoul be available when needed and or requested.

* Encouraging services in policy and funding to support individuals with greater support needs--those persons who may present significant challenges to agencies.

* Emphasizing improvement at all levels--individual and family, agency, local community, professional, region and state.

RSA's Vision of the Process

"Integration is a process, not an end product--a journey rather than a destination. All people are integrated into different groups to different degrees, and these degrees of integration change over time." (Bersani and Salon, 1988, p. 4)

Supported employment is a way in which people with disabilities can achieve more integration into society with an improved possibility for quality living. Wages, hours worked and benefits have been, and will continue to be, our concern, but our vision is that in the future, the criteria for success will incorporate each individual's wants and desires. Success is not static; it is relative. The criteria for success may change in relationship to other variables in the person's life.

We envision a process in which traditional support mechanisms change to meet the needs of the time. We envision a process that furthers the development and use of natural supports provided when needed.

We envision supported employment as part of a system of community support for the employment of people with disabilities. Employee assistance programs, personal care attendants, electronic aids, counselors and community courses in assertion, emplowerment and job selection--each have a place. The unique circumstances of the individual and the marketplace dictate the selection and use of support networks, formal and informal.

And so, we dedicate ourselves to visions. We propose to use our energy, our abilities and our talents to further the opportunities for all people to take part in the community so taht all who need supported employment services will receive them.
COPYRIGHT 1990 National Rehabilitation Association
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Title Annotation:Rehabilitation Services Administration
Author:Wieck, Colleen
Publication:The Journal of Rehabilitation
Date:Apr 1, 1990
Previous Article:New Orleans' Aquarium of the Americas.
Next Article:Facing the future: readying rehabilitation for the year 2000.

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