Employment First

The 2016 report from the national Advisory Committee on Increasing Competitive Integrated Employment of Individuals with Disabilities acknowledges “the longstanding challenges to effective school-to-career transition for youth with disabilities.” This is despite the “growing body of research showing that work experience and competitive integrated employment during secondary school years predicts successful post-school employment.” The committee was legislated by the 2014 Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act and chaired by David Mank, now retired director of the Indiana Institute on Disability and Community. The Act allocates 15 percent of public funds to pre-employment transition services, among other provisions. It provides greater flexibility in addressing employment issues at the state and local levels.

Governor Holcomb Signing Indiana's Employment First Legislation, May 10, 2017

In 2016, Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act savings accounts for people with disabilities were established by Indiana state law. And on May 10, 2017, Governor Eric J. Holcomb signed “Employment First” legislation, joining 34 other states promoting employment as the first goal for people with disabilities.

"I don't know how we did what we do before he was here. He's such a great addition to the team. Everybody here loves him."

When Patrick Sandy, now Easterseals Crossroads President/CEO, was first working with individuals to get them into competitive employment, he had a conversation with a mother in her 80s. Her son was a man Patrick was getting to know through nonverbal communication. “I sat down with her to try and tell her why I thought supported employment would really be a good thing for her son, and why I thought moving out of the sheltered workshop, which is what he had been in all his life, was going to be a great thing.” After some searching, Patrick found a job that seemed like a good match. “Within six months the employer was saying, ‘You know what, I don't know how we did what we do before he was here. He's such a great addition to the team. Everybody here loves him.’” The mother later shared with Patrick the medical advice she’d received about her child. “‘When he was born my physician said to me, put him in an institution right now, go home and tell your family and friends that the baby died in childbirth. And look what he's doing now,’” she marveled. “And I still remember that conversation so clearly,” recalls Patrick, “because it was like validation that this is absolutely the right thing to do.”