Category Archives: Disability Awareness

Illinois Program Designs Disability Awareness Curricula for Students of All Ages

Students in some Illinois school districts receive early education on disability and independent living and employment, thanks to an initiative that incorporates three different curricula, implemented through the community partner “RAMP“, an Illinois non-residential Center for Independent Living. By working with school districts to incorporate these programs, barriers are being dismantled and attitudes changed about people with disabilities being successful in society.

RAMP created a continuum of services that help to strengthen and build the educational and economic success for people with disabilities.

The iBelong curriculum is designed for elementary students as young as pre-K while the Ignite curriculum is designed for middle school students. The teens in Transition curriculum (T’NT) is designed to work with teenagers as they transition to adulthood.

IBelong is taught pre-K thru through sixth grade to all students. The goal is to promote acceptance by teaching children early and consistently that we have more in common with each other than not.

Students in seventh and eighth grade who have disabilities can use the Ignite curriculum to learn more about themselves so they can become better self-advocates.

RAMP’s third curriculum is Teens in Transition. It is designed to help teenagers with disabilities prepare for their transition into adulthood. T’NT aims to increase students’ chances of becoming young adults prepared to further their education, gain employment, responsibly manage a budget and live independently in the community.

The approaches taken by RAMP have left a lasting impression on students. A Rockford teacher said: “I feel as though having RAMP and the community partners come in to teach the lessons helped the students learn about these topics better than just having the teacher teach about it.”

Read the article here.

Read more about RAMP here.

“Next Steps”: Support for Families of Students with Disabilities

A Chicago district has developed a “Next Steps” team to aid families of students with disabilities in helping to prepare their student for adulthood.

“Next Steps” is a District 202 Vocational Education Team that assists parents and caregivers with planning, transitioning and advocating for their children with disabilities.

The Next Steps team aims to improve delivery of services to families of students with disabilities; increase family awareness of disability options and resources; and link families in need to agencies that can support them with issues related to transition.

Read more here.

Disability Awareness Month

September is disability awareness month.  Here is a clip about one organization that is helping people with disabilities to get employment and post secondary education opportunities

ABC4 Utah on Disability Awareness Month

Proposed CEC Division of Visual and Performing Arts Education (DARTS)

If you are a member of the Council for Exceptional Children, please read and consider signing the petition at the link provided to include professionals who work in the arts and foster growth in that area for students with disabilities.
Dear CEC Members:

The arts have played a vital role in the lives of many students with exceptionalities. Many of us have seen the successes (e.g., students who find their own area of expertise in the arts, or students who not only complete their own artwork, but help others) and the positive behavioral changes in arts classes. It is worth noting that students with exceptionalities have been taught by arts educators before our special education laws mandated their inclusion. And, like Ginger Rogers dancing backwards in high heels, they taught our students largely without special education training. We believe it is time to officially recognize and include arts education professionals at CEC.

You can help us create a new CEC Division of Visual and Performing Arts Education (DARTS) by clicking on and signing the petition below. A Division of Visual and Performing Arts Education can bring art, music, drama, and dance/movement teachers and therapists together with special educators. A Division of Visual and Performing Arts Education is needed because there is no national professional “home” for classroom teachers who use the arts and the arts professionals who work with our students. Beyond opportunities to meet and share ideas, strategies and techniques, a Division of Visual and Performing Arts Education can offer on-line professional journals that encourage arts/special education research and share exemplary arts lessons and programs with CEC members. These journals do not currently exist. CEC is the appropriate professional “home” for these arts/special education goals and can bring in new members from many arts organizations.

For these reasons, we ask for your support for a new CEC Division of Visual and Performing Arts Education (DARTS). For discussions on this new division to move forward, we must collect signatures from CEC members who support its creation. Please follow the link below and add your signature to our petition asking the CEC Board of Directors to approve and recognize DARTS.

Thank you,

Beverly Levett Gerber and the DARTS Organizational Committee (30 members who represent special education, art, music, and theatre education and therapies, and community art organizations)

ADA Celebrates 24th Anniversary

Independence was celebrated in many ways during July. People with Disabilities and supporters celebrated the anniversary of a law that has provided more opportunities for independence in their lives.

This month marks the 24th anniversary of the Americans with  Disabilities Act.

On July 26th 1990, President George H.W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act into law. The ADA, he declared, was “. . .the world’s first comprehensive declaration of equality for people with disabilities.” Its impact was monumental. From employment and transportation, to government services and telecommunications, the ADA promised equal access and equal opportunity for people with disabilities from all walks of life.

For twenty-four years the ADA has ensured people with disabilities protection from employment discrimination, equal access to public places like schools, businesses, and government buildings, and access to communications technology enabling the free transmission of ideas and information. And as a result, more people with disabilities than ever are able to achieve their potential. In the words of Bob Williams, former Associate Commissioner for Social Security’s Office of Employment Support Programs, “The Americans with Disabilities Act works.”  Mr. Williams was a leader in the fight to pass the ADA and witnessed the signing ceremony.

Read the article here.

College Program Combines Classes with Employment Experience

A Louisiana college has developed a program for students with cognitive disabilities that provides employment experience with courses that are related to the job skills they are learning.

The Program for Successful Employment at Bossier Parish Community College is a two year program that helps students develop the soft skills needed for employment and then matches them with the employment based on their desires and skills.

At first, participants attend classes that teach “soft skills” such as how to set up a job interview and what to wear and how to act while there. Social skills are stressed since many people with autism don’t communicate well and often exhibit behaviors and develop fixations others can describe as quirky, Hanberry said.

During the second year, students’ interests are taken into account and they’ll be matched with jobs that may suit them.

They’ll start taking regular classes at BPCC to help them succeed at those positions. For instance, if they work in a kitchen, they might enroll in some of the college’s culinary arts courses.

No employers have yet signed up to take part in the program, although many letters have been sent to businesses throughout the Shreveport-Bossier City area. And some companies are considering participating.

Since students don’t earn college credits, they won’t receive a degree. Rather, they will earn a certificate stating training they’ve received so they can be competitive in the job market.

“We’re also trying to train the community,” said Hanberry, noting that people with special needs can make conscientious and diligent workers, but occasionally there can be glitches.

Read more here.

U.S. Government Hiring More People with Disabilities: Still Not Meeting Goals

Posted in the Baltimore Sun (February 8, 2014)

While more people with disabilities are being hired by the U.S. Government, under the call by President Obama to for more diversity and inclusion in the federal government, the goals for employment are still not being met. Employer attitudes are a significant barrier to reaching the goals.

More individuals with disabilities worked for the federal government in 2012 than any time since at least as far back as 1980, the Office of Personnel Management reported recently, and the percentage of workers with disabilities hired each year continues to grow.

Advocates call the progress commendable, but say more can be done to bring down the nearly 12 percent unemployment rate for disabled workers.

The OPM reported that individuals with disabilities accounted for nearly 12 percent of the federal workforce, or about 220,000 people in 2012, up from 7 percent in 1980.

Obama issued an executive order in 2010 directing government agencies to redouble their efforts to recruit, hire and retain individuals with disabilities. That year, disabled workers made up about 10 percent of the federal workforce.

….Mark Perriello, president of the American Association of People with Disabilities, said agencies need to train hiring managers about how to interview individuals with impairments and dispel misconceptions about bringing them on staff.

One misconception, Perriello said, is that disabled workers need expensive accommodations in order to work. He said the average cost to accommodate a person with a disability is $35.

Read the article here.

Proponents of ABLE Act Speak out

Advocates of the Achieving a Better Life Experience Act of 2013 (ABLE Act) are speaking out in an effort to get it signed into law:

“My name is Sara Wolff. I am a 31 year-old from Moscow, Pennsylvania, who happens to have Down syndrome but that doesn’t stop me from achieving “my” better life. I work as a law clerk and also at Keystone Community Resources in the Office of Advocacy. I am a board member of the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS). I’m calling on Congress to pass the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act (S. 313/H.R. 647), a bill that will help individuals with disabilities to save for their futures.

I’m 31 years old, and I happen to have Down syndrome. I have two jobs, and lead an independent life, however, when my mom died suddenly last year, things got a lot harder for me and my family. I want to support myself and save money for my future, but if I save more than $2,000, I’ll lose the benefits I depend on like Medicaid and Social Security.

That’s because of a law that says that people with disabilities like me can’t have more than $2,000 in assets or we risk losing the benefits we need to live. For me, living on my own, that means I can’t even save enough to put down rent and a security deposit on an apartment. This law keeps me dependent on other people, and that’s really scary now that my mom is gone.

But, there is a solution: the ABLE Act.

When the ABLE Act passes into law this year, it will change my life forever. I lost my mother this past year, Connie, to a sudden, rapid illness. With my whole life ahead of me, I need an ABLE account to plan for my future. And, I am not alone, like most individuals with disabilities, people with Down syndrome and other conditions are out living their parents.

Read the rest of the post and view the petition here .

This video from Our Special Voice explains the ABLE Act in a little more detail:

Employers-Job Seekers Partnerships: Success Stories

When employers are educated on the benefits of hiring people with disabilities, all sorts of doors open for job seekers and employers alike.

Think Beyond the Label is one organization that educates with and provides network opportunities for businesses and job seekers with disabilities.

Think Beyond the Label is a public-private partnership that delivers information, outreach and resources to businesses, job seekers and the public workforce system to ensure greater recruiting and hiring opportunities for job candidates with disabilities.

One of the sucess stories on the website  (a couple of years old, but the program is still running) is about an Auto Dealership in Georgia that has developed Cafe Blends: Blending Autism into the Workplace. Since its inception, several of the dealerships locations have opened Cafe Blends at their locations.

Café Blends got its start as a pilot program at a Mercedes-Benz dealership in Tampa, Fla., in 2011. The Tampa café was so successful the company began a corporate initiative to expand the cafes to Atlanta. There are now three locations in Atlanta and one in Greenville, S.C.

Each café employs three baristas and one supervisor, who also serves as a job coach. The program involves not only training the participants, ages 18 to 28, as baristas, but also educating dealership employees about autism and how to help integrate the cafe workers into store operations.

“Asbury’s Café Blends initiative has become a remarkable success among both our employees and our customers. We feel very privileged to have this opportunity to raise awareness and create job opportunities for individuals on the autism spectrum,” says Craig Monaghan, president and CEO of Asbury Automotive Group.

Read more here.



“The Best Me I Can Be” – Student Led IEPs

Transition for youth with disabilities really begins when a student is identified as having a disability.  DC Education has developed a series of modules that addresses students being involved in their IEPs, from a very early age.

This module is about student-led IEPs and shows real examples of students leading their own IEPs.  Helping students develop these skills early in their education will provide a solid foundation for future transition planning.