All individuals with disabilities should have the freedom, support, and opportunity to achieve gainful employment. However, historically, many individuals with developmental disabilities have spent their days in workshops or day programs with other individuals with developmental disabilities and not in their community, earning a salary as do most other adults. This has been due, at least in part, to the perception that individuals with developmental disabilities are not capable of becoming productive employees and to outdated policies and practices that perpetuate this assumption.
Individuals with developmental disabilities can work when provided necessary services and supports. Supported employment is rooted in the premise that all individuals, including those with the most severe disabilities, can and should be an integral part of their communities, productive, and valuable. Benefits of supported employment for persons with developmental disabilities can be extraordinary – the right job can quite literally change someone’s life.
A clear commitment to individualizing supports and creating a system where employment is the first option available for all individuals with developmental disabilities is the first step to take. This will take several stages and involve all stakeholders, maintaining open communication. Ideally, funds will be used to increase the capacity of supported and customized employment service providers which will enhance the growth of integrated, gainful employment opportunities for individuals with developmental disabilities. The goal is for employment services and supports to be the primary use of employment and day program funds.
Along with cutting-edge policy changes, it is imperative that providers of supported employment services have an in-depth understanding of the employment market and that the needs of employers can be met through supported, competitive employment of individuals with developmental disabilities. The Council supports encouraging Florida employers to consider individuals with developmental disabilities as an under-utilized workforce and that employment can help fulfill projected workforce shortages in a wide number of fields including the government at all levels.
The time has come for increased recurring funding to be established to provide training to ensure on-going development of knowledgeable personnel to provide supported employment services to individuals with developmental disabilities, their families, and employers.
The Council’s Position:
- Creates a system where integrated, gainful employment is the first option available for all individuals with developmental disabilities.
- Provides supports and services to assist individuals with developmental disabilities enrolled in the Developmental Disability Medicaid Waiver programs who choose to pursue gainful employment.
- Maximizes funding across agency lines which enhances supported and
customized employment programs and services for individuals with