Tag Archives: disabilities

Visionary Employers “See the Light”: Disability Hiring

An increasing number of employers are beginning to “see the light” with regards to hiring people with disabilities.

Carol Glazer, President of the National Organization on Disability, has posted an article in the Huffington Post,  Retailers Can Learn From Each Other When it Comes to Disability Hiring, where she highlights the benefits of hiring people with disabilities and how some employers are stepping up.

In a race for talent, companies are now realizing that people with disabilities are a largely untapped pool that, as a result, has seen unemployment rates remain stubbornly high when compared to the general population. So when an employer the size of Starbucks plants a flag and says it is going to make this a priority, others are likely to follow.

Galzer provides examples of how retail giants like Starbucks and Walgreens have created initiatives to hire people with disabilities, whose talents bring extraordinary contributions to the workforce. Continue reading

Spotlight on Teresa Berden Clarkson, Transition Teacher

Teresa Clarkson has worked as a Transition Teacher and CTE Career Coach.

Teresa Clarkson has worked as a Transition Teacher and CTE Career Coach.

Teresa Berden Clarkson has a well established and admirable career working with students with disabilities.  She first began teaching 20 years ago at a Western Michigan University with student services.  She progressed to St. Clair County Community College – first as a Placement Specialist and then as a Career Counselor, continuing on the Macomb Community College as a Special Services Counselor.   Teresa then took  a detour back to secondary education in Grand County School District in Utah where she works as a Special Educator and CTE Career Coach.   Teresa’s current job responsibilities include counseling students in CTE pathways and Program of Study; surveying CTE graduates; collaborating with secondary, post-secondary, and industry partners; promoting College & Career Readiness Standards; coordinating the Grand County High School Annual Career Fair; advocatingfor CTE scholarship applicants; and assisting with Work-Based Learning Opportunities.

I serve a diverse range of students – exceptional learners, CTE technical students, at-risk populations, and gifted/talented from middle school to college age adults.

When asked what has been the most important development in Transition, Teresa states that,

new online transition assessment tools which allow teachers to gather transition data and compare results from student, teacher, and a parent prospective. The most positive things about working in Transition are when the joy you see on the face of students when they get their first job or get a paid internship position.  Every student should experience the sense of accomplishment for achieving a goal such as graduation or other milestone.

Teresa feels that the biggest challenge in her work with Transition students is often not with students, but with family members.

It is important for students to play an active role in their transition process; therefore, parents often struggle with letting their child set a goal for themselves for the first time.  Parents occasionally need support/coaching on how to help students create realistic, achievable goals.

Continue reading

Spotlight on Janalyn Duersch, Transition Teacher

Janalyn Duersch knew as a teenager that she wanted to be a Special Education Teacher. She began her career as a staff assistant 22 years ago and after 4 years began her journey to pursue that dream. “I knew what I wanted to be when I was 14. My family friend was a special ed teacher at Logan High School and encouraged me to get a job as a staff assistant while I was in college so that I could garner experience. He helped me to get a job at Logan High. I did my degree at Utah State University and worked at Logan High simultaneously.”

Janalyn Duersch works n the Adult Transition Program in the Ogden School District in Ogden Utah.

Janalyn Duersch works n the Adult Transition Program in the Ogden School District in Ogden Utah. 

Janalyn is a teacher in the Adult Transition Program in the Ogden School District in Ogden Utah where her primary job is teaching students with moderate-severe disabilities ages 18-22 in a community based post high school program. She determines student needs to create plans and instruction for independent living skills, vocational skills, post-secondary education, community skills, social skills, hygiene skills and functional academics. She also delivers instruction, advocates for and links students and their families with community agencies such as Vocational Rehabilitation, Division of Services for People with Disabilities and The Utah Independent Living Center. Janalyn supervises staff, completes requisite paperwork (“Oh so much paperwork!”), collaborates with agencies, coordinates and creates job placements with local businesses, teams with other teachers, collects and analyzes data and disseminates information to the community.

Continue reading

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)

Alabama School Provides Transition to Adulthood Services

An Alabama school is providing postsecondary transition services for students with disabilities that bridge the gap between high school and college or independent living.

Horizons School was established in 1991 as an initiative of the UAB School of Education, the school is a non-degree transition program designed for students age 18 to 26 who have learning disabilities, autism and other mild handicapping conditions.

Based in Birmingham, it is the only program of its kind in the Southeast.

“When a student finishes their grade school education with either a high school diploma or a certificate of attendance but they don’t have the living skills they need for independence, there is nothing for them. That’s really frustrating because many of our students….are on the cusp of independence when they come but not quite ready to be on their own,” said assistant director Brian Geiger.

Classes taught at Horizons School range from social skills and money management to cooking, art and fitness. Advisors work closely with new students to help them set goals that will lead to greater independence as well as solve problems they encounter.

Over time, students begin to rely on others less and themselves more.

Read more here.

Horizons School website

While many students with disabilities enter college, keeping them there is another story….

There are many success stories about students with disabilities attending college. But there is still much work to do.  This article addresses barriers to staying in college for students with disabilities.

Why Are Huge Numbers of Disabled Students Dropping Out of College?

    ….an estimated 60% of disabled young adults make it to college after high school, yet nearly two thirds are unable to complete their degrees within six years. Is this the fault of their disabilities, or is something more complex at play? The testimony of disabled students suggests that the problem lies not with their disabilities, per se, but with the numerous barriers they encounter in higher education, from failing to provide blind students with readers, to the refusal to accommodate wheelchair users in otherwise accessible classrooms.

….What can be done to improve conditions for disabled students in the United States? How do we create a more welcoming, sustainable educational environment for them? Two things are key: promoting a proud self-advocacy culture, and reforming institutional attitudes about disability.

Read the article here.


Aggies Elevated Program Accepts Students Into First Cohort

A new program for students with developmental and intellectual disabilities at Utah State University,  Aggies Elevated,  has accepted its first cohort for the Fall of 2014.

The Aggies Elevated program was created with young adult learners in mind by experts in the fields of disability and special education at USU’s Emma Eccles Jones College of Education and Human Services.

Our supportive and inclusive environment is close to home, yet far enough away to give young adults with intellectual or other disabilities the opportunity to learn and grow while participating in all the activities that a traditional residential campus has to offer.

Students in the new program will develop academic and independent living skills and will engage in career exploration, work internship, vocational electives, and personal growth through coursework tailored to each individual. Part of each student’s plan will also include  community-based work internships.

Work Study Transition Program for Students with Disabilities

Howard County Public School System in Maryland has a work study  program that provides opportunities for students with disabilities at all levels who are certificate-bound.

At 19, Craig Knill has a varied work experience. Over the past four years, he has worked for libraries, at bookstores as a custodian and as a clerical worker in the offices of the Howard County Council.

It’s all part of a work-study transition program through the Howard County Public School System and numerous community partners that helps prepare students such as Knill, a senior at Glenelg High School, for life after school.

The work-study transition program is for students with disabilities, from the mild to the profound, whether they’re bound for a diploma or a certificate of completion, said Dawson Robertson, program head for work study and lead transition coordinator for the Howard County Public School System.

“This is providing students with disabilities the opportunity to transition to adult life, about lifting barriers,” he said.

Employment Opportunities for Tennesseans with Cognitive Disabilities Looks Bleak

Young adults with cognitive disabilities are increasingly facing unemployment.  This article chronicles a young man on the Autism spectrum who remains unemployed despite having been trained for a job through services provided by public programs.(The Tennessean, March 16, 2014)

….after being notified in November that Tennessee’s Division of Rehabilitation Services “cannot provide ongoing job coaching” for [Seth] Howe, his parents don’t know what to do next.

A state Medicaid waiver could help, but Howe is one of more than 7,100 people on a waiting list for such services from the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.

As a result — after years of state-funded special education and vocational training — Howe sits at home, the skills he acquired diminishing with each passing day.

“It makes me extremely angry to know that all this time and money was spent for him to have a life, and he has no life,” said his mother, Lynn Howe.

Only 16.6 percent of Tennesseans who have a cognitive disability were employed in 2011 — down from 21.4 percent six years earlier. The employment rate is third worst in the country, behind only West Virginia and Alabama, and well below the national average of 22.2 percent, according to the American Community Survey.

Nearly 200,000 working-age Tennesseans with an intellectual disability are left without employment.

Read more here.


Technology, Equality and Accessibility in College and Higher Education (TEACH) Act

A bill that was initally introduced in November 2013 by U.S. House of Representatives by Congressman Thomas Petri (R-Wis.) is being re-introduced by United States Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), as “bipartisan legislation that would help strengthen the accessibility of educational technologies for college students with disabilities” according the Senator Warren’s website.

Senator Warren spoke at a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee hearing on February 27, 2014 to announce the introduction of the legislation:

A summary of the previously introduced bill by rep. Petri states:

Technology, Equality and Accessibility in College and Higher Education Act or the TEACH Act – Directs the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (Access Board) to develop accessibility guidelines for electronic instructional materials and related information technologies in institutions of higher education (IHEs).

Requires those guidelines to: (1) include performance criteria to ensure that electronic instructional materials and related information technologies are accessible to the blind and disabled; (2) be consistent with the standards for technical and functional performance criteria issued pursuant to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973; and (3) be, to the extent practicable, consistent with national and international accessibility standards for those materials and technologies.

Directs the Access Board to review and, as appropriate, amend the guidelines every three years to reflect technological advances or changes in electronic instructional materials and related information technologies.

Deems IHEs that use electronic instructional materials and related information technologies that comply with the guidelines to be in compliance with nondiscrimination provisions under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

Read the text of the legislation here.

Read the fact sheet on the legislation here.