Registered Apprenticeship: Job Seekers with Disabilities Please Apply!
Thursday, December 03, 2020 — 3:00pm – 4:00pm ET
BACKGROUND: With funding from the Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) at the U.S. Department of Labor, LEAD Center is continuing its work (a) to promote equal opportunity within the broader workforce system for youth and adults with disabilities; (b) to advance the development of inclusive career pathways using the interactive Road to Inclusive Career Pathways on the LEAD website; (c) to support economic advancement and financial literacy for youth and adults with disabilities; and (d) to provide up-to-date data to the field on employment and related outcomes for people with disabilities.
Webinar: Registered Apprenticeship:Job Seekers with Disabilities Please Apply!
Thursday, December 3, 3:00-4:00 P.M. EDT
Apprenticeship is an industry-driven, high-quality career pathway where employers can develop and prepare their future workforce, and individuals can obtain paid work experience, classroom instruction, mentorship, and a portable credential. For job seekers with disabilities, apprenticeship offers a model that promotes on-the-job learning and program supports that can offer a viable pathway to a well-paying career.
This webinar will offer an introduction to registered apprenticeship. We will share what distinguishes apprenticeships from other types of work-based learning, explore the benefits for all stakeholders, share different models, and highlight promising programs from the field. We’ll be joined by Mitchell Harp and Melissa Stowasser from Trident Technical College in Charleston, SC, and Cindy Lennon from Able-Disabled Advocacy in San Diego, CA.
Participants will learn: *How registered apprenticeship benefits individuals, employers, and programs *What comprises the essential components of an apprenticeship program *How to differentiate apprenticeship from other work-based learning models *How to locate apprenticeship programs available in their region and make referrals Join us for the webinar: Registered Apprenticeship: Job Seekers with Disabilities Please Apply! Thursday, December 3, 2020, 3:00-4:00 P.M. EDT
Background: the National Council on Disability (NCD) is an independent federal agency charged with advising the President, Congress, and other federal agencies regarding policies, programs, practices, and procedures that affect people with disabilities. NCD is comprised of a team of Presidential and Congressional appointees, an Executive Director appointed by the Chair, and a full-time professional staff. (“Read more about the NCD team“)
NCD conducted a comprehensive analysis of the AbilityOne Program to determine whether it promotes Congress’ goal of improving employment opportunities for people who are blind or have significant disabilities. Today, the program is made of a government-appointed Commission and staff, three central nonprofit agencies (CNAs) that facilitate the program, and over 500 participating nonprofit agencies that hire people who are blind or have significant disabilities to sell goods and services to federal agencies.
SCOPE AND PURPOSE: NCD conducted a comprehensive analysis of the AbilityOne Program to determine whether it promotes Congress’ goal of improving employment opportunities for people who are blind or have significant disabilities. Today, the program is made of a government-appointed Commission and staff, three central nonprofit agencies (CNAs) that facilitate the program, and over 500 participating nonprofit agencies that hire people who are blind or have significant disabilities to sell goods and services to federal agencies.
NCD’s report raises the following concerns about the AbilityOne Program:
Despite increased program revenue earned through sales to the Federal Government, employment for people who are blind or have significant disabilities has steadily declined since 2011 – While overall program sales have increased, the number of employees and total direct labor hours from the employment of people who are blind or have significant disabilities have declined since FY 2011. The percentage of overall program revenue paying wages to people are blind or have with significant disabilities has also declined each year since FY 2011.
The program undermines current national disability policy goals to create competitive integrated employment opportunities for people with disabilities – The program is a federally sanctioned segregated jobs system from 1938 that reinforces distinct employment paths for people who are blind or have significant disabilities that may result in subminimum wages. The program relies on an outdated societal landscape that existed prior to a public right to education and other core civil rights for people with disabilities. For this reason, only approximately four percent of employees hired under the program exit the program to enter competitive, integrated employment each year.
Repeated concerns about transparency and conflicts of interest remain unaddressed and undermine confidence in the program – While the CNAs continue to seek opportunities to increase program revenue, past scrutiny and criticism from Congress, the Government Accountability Office, its own Inspector General, and the Advisory Committee on Increasing Competitive Integrated Employment for Individuals with Disabilities remain unresolved. The CNA program fee remains exempt from federal restrictions on its use allowing it to fund executive salaries and lobbying expenses. In addition, NPAs have the discretion to decide which employees have significant disabilities, however NCD’s interviews and site visits with NPAs raised concern that they lack the capacity, skill, and knowledge to objectively evaluate the skills of their workers with disabilities.
NCD concludes the report by advising Congress to transition the outdated AbilityOne Program into a new requirement under Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act that will incentivize federal contractors to hire a percentage of people who are blind or have significant disabilities at competitive wages and provides recommendations to successfully transition the current 45,000 AbilityOne employees into competitive, integrated employment.
As the Month of October 2020 came to an end, not only have we observed this year’s National Disability Employment Awareness Month, but also remembered:
75th Anniversary of National Employment Awareness Month
100th Anniversary of the National Vocational Rehabilitation program
50th Anniversary establishment of Developmental Disability Councils
In Ohio, 50th anniversary of Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities– housing the state’s vocational rehabilitation program
In Ohio since 2016 (in many states for years) – October is Disability History & Awareness Month
I have been pondering how to remember these amazing milestones and how we move forward to our next challenges & accomplishments. Our current times have been perhaps wondrous, celebratory, stormy, unsettling, and scary during a pandemic.
I was drawn to this November 8, 2020 Washington Post announcement for a touchstone:
Jim Ramstad, an 18 year Member of Congress, died at 74. Why highlight this Republican from Minnesota to help celebrate our past and prepare for our future? Is it that shortly before his death he marked 39 years of sobriety from alcohol? Is it that he died of Parkinson’s disease? Is it that he was the chief sponsor of legislation that added significant protections in health coverage for those with mental illness & chemical dependency? Or (from my time some years ago as Congressional Liaison with the National Council on Disability) is it that he was Co-Chair with Rep. Jim Langevin (Democrat from Rhode Island) of the Congressional Bipartisan Disabilities Caucus?
Before I answer as to why I find the passing of a former Member of Congress from Minnesota of value in our remembrances, let me relate a quick slice of memory from a discussion I had with former Rep. Ramstad in his Congressional Office. He shared with me that he accompanied his grandmother very often as she supported and worked with children with disabilities. He related that when he was young he spend a great deal of time helping and having fun with children with disabilities.
So let’s take another moment to review one more bit of history and then use our history to look at today, tomorrow, and finally answer my questions.
In 1920 the Smith-Fess Act was signed into law by President Woodrow Wilson, (also known as the Civilian Vocational Rehabilitation Act). It established the Vocational Rehabilitation program for Americans with disabilities. At that point, only individuals with physical disabilities are eligible for services. This is the 100th Anniversary of the national Vocational Rehabilitation Program I noted as #2 above
Here is a bit of background on the Sponsors of the Smith-Fess Act:
Michael Hoke Smith (September 2, 1855 – November 27, 1931) was an American attorney, a Democratic politician, and newspaper owner; served as United States Secretary of the Interior (1893–1896), 58th Governor of Georgia (1907–1909, 1911), and a United States Senator (1911–1920) from Georgia.
Simeon Davison Fess (December 11, 1861 – December 23, 1936) was a Republican politician and educator from Ohio; Dean of the Ohio Northern University law department 1896-1900, and University Vice President 1900-1902; President of Antioch College, Yellow Springs, Ohio, 1907-1917. He served in the United States House of Representatives and U.S. Senate from 1913 – 1935.
Again, we see the bipartisanship of Mr. Smith & Mr. Fess – a Democrat and a Republican – that has been the hallmark of disability policy and advocacy. We are all in this together.
So, in this time when many are talking about political partisanship and differences, the passing of Jim Ramstad reminded me – as I submit it should perhaps remind us all – that issues affecting Americans with Disabilities have historically been addressed in a bipartisan fashion. I raised all those questions about Jim Ramstad’s life, as his life might be all of our lives as he worked hard to include everyone, while dealing with his own life too. We must continue to advocate for ourselves as people with disabilities for independence, equal access and inclusion even more strongly than in the past. And we must try to work together while arguing vociferously and making sure we are in the room.
Looking to our future, here are three recent examples of leadership, learning, and growing that may be of interest:
The Bipartisan Disabilities Caucus was formed in the 107th Congress (2001-2003), and serves as a groundbreaking forum for Members of Congress and their staff to discuss the many issues affecting people with disabilities. The primary purpose of the Caucus is to inform, educate and raise awareness on issues affecting people with disabilities. The Co-Chairs of this currently 58 member caucus are: Representative Jim Langevin (D-RI) and Representative Don Young (R-AK).
Look to see if Congress Members from your state are in the Caucus. If not, perhaps ask them to join and become part of the discussion. Link to Bipartisan Disabilities Caucus:
The California Developmental Disabilities Council produced “Let’s Work!” a documentary about 8 young people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their experiences and successes in competitive integrated employment. They held an online screening of the documentary & a panel discussion including people in the documentary and members of the California DD Council. Here’s the YouTube link to the documentary:
On November 4, a dozen women leaders in business, finance, law, education, journalism, politics, government and civic advocacy participated in panel discussions that explored women’s leadership in the U.S., reflecting on lessons learned, current challenges and action plans for the future. In addition, the nonpartisan Pew Research Center gave a briefing about its report, “Views of Gender Equality and Women’s Leadership in the U.S.” All were recorded and can be viewed:
In the Women’s Leadership Forums, A closing quote from Women in Government Executive Director Lucy Gettman may be helpful as we chart our future: “Lead from where you are, we can all be leaders, and we are all leaders in our homes, our communities, and our public venues.” (Full Disclosure – I am Lucy Gettman’s spouse)
In a recent column, I introduced Ric Nelson, a 37-year-old disability advocate in Anchorage, Alaska. Nelson has cerebral palsy and requires full-time assistance to manage his physical needs. Despite his challenges, he’s dedicated his career to advancing programs and understanding of the disabled in Alaska (which ranks third in the U.S. for the strength of its programs) and throughout the U.S.
After graduating in the top 10 percent of his high school class, Nelson secured associate’s and bachelor’s degrees in Small Business Management and Business Administration on scholarship, followed by a master’s degree in Public Administration.
Nelson serves on multiple boards and has testified in Washington D.C. toward advances in the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act). Appointed in 2007, After six years’ service as a committee member of the Governor’s Council on Disabilities and Special Education (GCDSE), he was elected as the program chair for two years and hired as a staff member from September 2015 until September 2020 as the program’s Employment Program Coordinator.
Most recently Nelson has assumed the role of Advocacy and Outreach Specialist for The ARC of Anchorage, one of 600 U.S. locations for The Arc of the United States, an organization launched by parents of people with developmental disabilities in the 1950s and headquartered in Washington, D.C.
For the disabled, financial obstacles abound
The Covid-19 recession has hit the disabled particularly hard, Nelson says. The disabled have lost nearly 1M jobs between March and May of 2020. Complicating factors include jobs that ended due to the extra risk of immunocompromised conditions and the predominance of lower-level positions in industries that have been most heavily hit. With DEI (Diversity, Equality and Inclusion) becoming one of the highest priorities for this year’s end and the seasons to follow, what do businesses need to know and do to support the disabled from here forward?
In an interview, Nelson reinforced the need for self-advocacy among the disabled and the need for greater awareness and education of the businesses and communities they serve. Public perception is tantamount, he says, to avoid the creation of further problems by the very solutions we attempt to create.
For example, he notes the extreme difficulty (and even impossibility) of having a savings account when government programs assume any earning potential should be used to reimburse the cost of Medicare needs.
“The cost to Medicare of a full-time assistant may be $100,000, regardless of the person’s activities,” Nelson says. “But if a fully-employed disabled person makes $50,000 or $80,000 – a rarity in itself – and loses their qualification for Medicare funds, they can’t go to work without suddenly incurring this debt.”
Other issues include the right to continued health care benefits if they marry, or to put away retirement savings or to maintain equivalent benefits if they move to a different state. Many of these issues require continued advocacy to state and federal agencies.
But what can individual companies do?
I consulted Sara Dansie Jones, the diversity and inclusion expert at the helm of InclusionPro for input. Especially in the environment of heightened tension around diversity and equality issues, she noted that she is observing three tiers of acceptance and activity around diversity issues. If businesses understand these levels, they can use diversity to make their businesses stronger at the same time they support community and families. The ideals are not mutually exclusive, she maintains. Nelson agrees.
The secret is in elevating the narrative around inclusion from argument to opportunity, Jones says. She defines the three levels as follows:
Level 1: Compliance is the minimum.
This is the minimum level of inclusion to meet ADA or other diversity standards, that allow you to operate legally. At this level companies may privately complain about the cost of meeting accessibility requirements or the need to meet diversity language or hiring requirements.
Meeting compliance is vital to the continued right to operate legally and is at least “something” in terms of providing accessibility and some level of job opportunities. But (and I will note this as a female executive, as a small example), is it really ideal to be chosen for a role because the organization wants to demonstrate its compliance or willingness to include a disabled person or a person of color or a female on their employee roster or board? Compliance is not a bad thing, of course, but is a minimum step with minimal outcome.
Level 2: Beware “compassionate” condescension
In this step, which Nelson jokingly refers to as “disability porn,” political candidates go out of their way to be photographed with disabled citizens. Company ads depict photographs that attempt to include not only the disabled but every minority possible, regardless of the actual landscape of their typical business transactions.
We have seen this type of activity redouble during the political season as well as in response to racial tension – social media posts of everyone putting their arm around their nearest Black friend, for example. But the attempt to communicate “I’m not racist” is an act that doesn’t edify either party and, furthermore, makes most individuals cringe.
Jones notes these activities, such as depicting a disabled person shopping in the market as a message of “isn’t this heartening” moves beyond legal requirements but remains condescending. Why should the sight of a disabled person participating in “normal” life functions be a cause for attention at all?
“Yes, these are things that signal inclusion, but they also signal ‘compassion’ in a way that is condescending instead of a show of actual respect.”
Level 3: Value Add
Mutual value-add with all diversities – and perhaps especially the disabled, as they constitute America’s largest minoritized community – should be our ultimate goal, Jones says. For example, she notes the example of a friend she has known since college, a woman with cerebral palsy, who was able to complete her master’s degree with support from an enlightened employer, Discover Card. By providing the avenue for her education, the company was able to benefit from her talents during the entire span of her schooling.
With her degree, the woman has been able to open and operate a counseling practice in a building that is fully accessible and brings specialized counseling to the disabled and to families of the disabled among the services she offers, which supports the community in multiple ways – 1) She provides revenue to support herself, her assistant and adds to the revenue of her community, state and federal programs, and 2) She provides insights to her clients that are uniquely beneficial due to her personal knowledge of the challenges they face. Thanks to the support of an enlightened employer, this individual has enriched not only that company but has now created a business and revenue base of her own.
In another case, Salt Lake City’s leading broadcaster realized one of its key producers – who requires a wheelchair – was frequently getting locked into rooms by the swinging doors she was unable to open. Of their own volition, they rebuilt the doors in their building not only to accommodate her but to better support the accessibility of other present and future employees and guests. This was not a legal requirement; however, it allows them to maximize the gains they receive from a vital employee. There is mutual value add and everyone wins.
Nelson espouses this thinking as well. In addition to his administrative role for The ARC, he has worked for four years as a key fundraiser and organizing participant of the annual Peer Power Self Advocacy Summit in Anchorage. The conference invites businesses to attend and support and provides scholarship funds to bring participants in advocacy to gain education and to advance the ability of individuals and communities to provide mutual benefit in increasingly meaningful ways. The 2020 event was virtual, but preparation is now beginning for the program’s 5th annual event at the end of September in 2021.
Meanwhile, his message to businesses and elected officials is this: “We need to hold ourselves – and each other – to a higher standard.”
Since the start of the Covid19 pandemic, people in “at risk” populations were advised to take extra precautions to avoid getting the virus. According to the Center for Disease Control, this list includes the following conditions: cancer, chronic kidney disease, COPD, heart conditions, people with compromised immune systems, people who are obese, women who are pregnant, smokers, people with sickle cell disease, and those with diabetes.
According to a recent research study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, this list should include one more condition: people with Down’s Syndrome. The Mayo Clinic notes that people with Down’s Syndrome can have the following complications: heart defects, gastrointestinal defects, immune disorders, obesity and leukemia – all of which would put them at higher risk should they contract Covid19. So, although the risk factors often shared by those with Down’s are on the list, the syndrome itself has been left off. The researchers suggest that perhaps that needs to change.
The study, which focused on the first six months of 2020, analyzed data in QResearch, a sweeping, longitudinal primary-care database that has been compiled in England since 1998. According to the study, a person with Down’s Syndrome who contracts the Covid19 virus was 4x more likely to require hospitalization and 10x more likely to die from complications caused by the virus, compared to people who do not have Down’s.
We all need to take care of each other. All of us know of families in our communities who have members with Down’s. If you need another reason to engage in the proper health protocols – washing your hands, maintaining social distance, and wearing a mask – think of them.
In part 2 of our interview with OOD Director Kevin Miller, he describes the reaction of the consumers – Ohioans with disabilities – to the pandemic. One day they are making progress toward their goal of a job – a career – and the next they are sidelined by a virus spreading all over Ohio, the country, and the world.
In this discussion, Director Miller talks about how every link in the chain — the employers, the providers, the OOD professionals, and the consumers, had to come together and adapt in order to keep moving forward.
In March of 2020, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine sent almost every state of Ohio employee home due to the pandemic. A new day had started, and it came about quickly. State employees, many of whom had been going to work in a downtown office for 20 years, were now being asked to not come in at all. Although they couldn’t come in, the work of state government needed to go on — perhaps now more than ever. To the greatest extent possible, Ohio’s governmental agencies needed to be on the ready to continue to serve her citizens, even the midst of a pandemic.
Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities (OOD) is Ohio’s state-federal vocational rehabilitation program. The professionals at OOD are charged with coordinating the types of educational and vocational services Ohioans wtih disabilities need to become employable and, ultimately, employed. The pandemic affected every link in the OOD chain — the employers who would be hiring, the providers offering the training, the people with disabilities receiving services, and the OOD professionals who were coordinating it all. Everything changed. Everything had to be done differently, and everything had to be done of the fly.
In a special 3-part interview, OOD Director Kevin Miller walks through the challenge of providing VR services to Ohioans with disabilities in the middle of a pandemic. In part 1, Director Miller talks about the impact it had on the agency, and how the vocational rehabiltiation professionals had to find new ways to continue to provide services to Ohioans with disabilities… people who were, in many cases, at special risk should they contract the Coronavirus. We thank Director Miller for his time and his message. Please enjoy part 1 of our interview with OOD Director Kevin Miller.
Welcome to the newest creation from Assistive Technology of Ohio – the Ohio Disability Blog!
Assistive Technology of Ohio (AT Ohio) is part of the College of Engineering at The Ohio State University. We are Ohio’s Assistive Technology Act program and all of the service we offer help people learn about the ways that technology can improve the lives of Ohioans with disabilities. Technology can play such a major role in helping people with disabilities succeed in school, compete in the workplace and lead more independent and inter-connected lives.
On the Ohio Disability Blog, we hope to:
Educate Ohioans about the latest developments affecting people with disabilities.
Spotlight new and emerging technologies that help people with disabilities in the areas of education, employment and community living
Highlight Ohioans who are on the frontlines, helping improve the lives of Ohioans with disabilities, every day.
We hope to become Ohio’s online home to discuss issues of upmost importance to Ohio’s disabilities community. And for us, that includes everyone: people with visual impairments, hearing impairments, developmental disabilities, physical disabilities – everyone. They can also come from every disability-related system in Ohio: Developmental Disabilities, Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities, Aging, the Veterans Administration, Workers’ Compensation… you name it.
We will be utilize some the best and most experienced talent in the state on disability issues. We will be interviewing Ohio’s disability leaders. And we will be letting you know how you can get involved and engaged in helping improve the lives of Ohioans with disabilities.