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Lt. Gov. Brian Calley signs executive order fostering career opportunities for Michiganders with disabilities

November 19, 2015 | The Ionia Sentinel-Standard

Lt. Gov. Brian Calley signed an executive order Wednesday that will lead to increased job opportunities for Michiganders with disabilities. Read article >>

APSE's Public Testimony to the Advisory Committee in Increasing Competitive Integrated Employment for Individuals with Disabilities

Oct 14, 2015 | By Alison Wohl, APSE Executive Director

My name is Allison Wohl and I am the Executive Director of the Association of People Supporting EmploymentFirst (APSE). APSE is the only national membership organization focused exclusively on integrated employment with 39 chapters that are the driving force for implementing EmploymentFirst policies and practices nationally. Through advocacy and education, APSE advances employment and self-sufficiency for all people with disabilities.

APSE applauds the bold Advisory Committee recommendations on Increasing Competitive Integrated Employment for Individuals with Disabilities (ACICIEID) for making concrete recommendations on the use of subminimum wages, better oversight of the 14(c) programs, and the use of limited federal funding for programs that actually increase competitive, integrated employment for individuals with disabilities.

Perhaps the most critical impact that the Workforce Investment and Opportunity Act (WIOA) will have on our country's workforce systems is that it turns the assumptions that our current system is predicated on upside down; our public systems of support for people with disabilities often presume that people can't work, and WIOA presumes that they can. Every program must be viewed via a clear and simple lens: whether it supports competitive integrated employment. If not, then our public policies and scarce public dollars should not be used to support it. As stated in the proposed regulations for WIOA: ".individuals with disabilities, including those with the most significant disabilities, are capable of achieving high quality, competitive integrated employment when provided the necessary skills and supports." It is no longer a cogent argument to insist that people should be supported in ways that segregate, isolate, and condemn individuals with disabilities to lives of poverty and low expectations.

The Committee's recommendations highlight the idea that we cannot have both strong public policies supporting competitive integrated employment, while simultaneously allowing antithetical provider practices that pay subminimum wages and segregate individuals with disabilities in settings that isolate them. The series of recommendations on service provider capacity highlights the importance of building on competitive integrated employment in terms of national and state standards, leadership development, staff development, and technical assistance as well as the removal of inherent provider conflicts of interest.

Now, the system itself must be transformed to support people under a standard definition of Competitive Integrated Employment. Viewed through this lens, changing "what is" must mean preparing to discard these outdated practices.

APSE is pleased to see strong recommendations regarding federal agency collaboration with respect to guidance and funding. Specifically, we strongly support the recommendations that ask federal agencies to:

  • Collaborate to issue guidance to states on how to use, braid and/or blend their respective funds to support best practices and/or evidence-based models that result in competitive, integrated employment
  • Make federal support and incentives available to help people move from segregated day programs to competitive integrated employment, using existing model programs
  • Tie efforts to specific, measurable outcomes in the reduction of the number of people in segregated day programs and increases in competitive integrated employment outcomes would be effective.

We appreciate that the Committee took into consideration the important role that the Department of Education plays in managing employment expectations and creating transition opportunities for youth with disabilities. One of the most critical pieces of WIOA in terms of limiting segregated, sub-minimum wage services, and chronic lack of workforce participation of adults with disabilities, is focusing on youth with disabilities in transition. APSE would like to see Transition recommendations emphasize paid employment in high school and throughout Transition rather than simply preparation for employment. Students must learn that their time and skills have value and that any kind of prevocational training should be time-limited.

Recommendations for using real outcome data that would be widely disseminated will help people with disabilities, their families and other stakeholders make informed decisions about employment; where work may be available; and which agencies are most effective in supporting people to obtain competitive integrated employment.

The AbilityOne program is in need of real, sustainable reform. In order for the program to align with WIOA and its definition of Competitive Integrated Employment, it must be completely overhauled to protect significant taxpayer investment that go to the program and to assure that it is brought in line with 21st century expectations. Without a more transparent process for allocating funds, the AbilityOne program will continue to reward the status quo by awarding contracts to segregated, subminimum wage providers and those who pay our system's beneficiaries by outdated and discriminatory productivity standards. Taxpayer dollars should instead be reinvested in a system that rewards the facilitation of real jobs in typical work settings with the rest of society.

Both 14c and the AbilityOne program continue to reinforce a violation of rights and segregation. The workforce system must align policy and practice through common definitions that are understood across both service systems and federal agencies.

APSE has clearly and emphatically stated its position on sub-minimum wage and segregated employment and the need to phase it out.

We thank the committee for its time.

For Immediate Release: September 30, 2015

Presidential Proclamation -- National Disability Employment Awareness Month, 2015


A quarter century ago, our country took a major step toward fulfilling the fundamental American promises of equal access, equal opportunity, and equal respect for all when the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was made the law of the land. While we have continued to make advancements that help uphold this basic belief, we must address the injustices that remain. During National Disability Employment Awareness Month, we celebrate the ways individuals with disabilities strengthen our workforce, our communities, and our country, and we recommit to cultivating an America where all people are able to build vibrant futures for themselves and for their families.

Americans with disabilities make up almost one-fifth of our population, but are unemployed at a rate that is twice that of people without disabilities; and for women and minorities with disabilities, the rates are even higher. Despite all they contribute to our society, people with disabilities still face discrimination by employers, limited access to skills training, and, too often, unfairly low expectations. As a Nation, we must continue to promote inclusion in the workplace and to tear down the barriers that remain -- in hearts, in minds, and in policies -- to the security and prosperity that stable jobs provide and that all our people deserve. And we must actively foster a culture in which individuals are supported and accepted for who they are and in which it is okay to disclose one's disability without fear of discrimination.

My Administration is working to make sure our country does not let the incredible talents of Americans with disabilities go to waste. We are working to strengthen protections against disability-based discrimination in the workplace and to expand employment possibilities for people with disabilities -- and the Federal Government is leading by example. I have taken action to require agencies and Federal contractors to hire more people with disabilities -- and thanks to these efforts, more Americans with disabilities are in Federal service than at any point in the last three decades.

I will continue fighting to widen pathways to opportunity for individuals with disabilities and supporting employers in their efforts to increase disability inclusion. The White House hosted a Summit on Disability and Employment earlier this year to provide businesses, philanthropies, and advocates with information on Federal resources for hiring disabled individuals. Last year, I was proud to sign the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), which encourages greater coordination across Federal, State, and local programs to expand access to high-quality workforce, education, and rehabilitation services. WIOA also helps youth with disabilities to receive extensive pre-employment transition services so they can find positions alongside people without disabilities and get paid above minimum wage. Additionally, last year I signed the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act, which allows eligible people with disabilities to establish tax-free savings accounts.

America is at its strongest when we harness the talents and celebrate the distinct gifts of all our people. This October, as we observe the 70th anniversary of National Disability Employment Awareness Month, let us pay tribute to all who fought for better laws, demanded better treatment, and overcame ignorance and indifference to make our Nation more perfect. In their honor, and for the betterment of generations of Americans to come, let us continue the work of removing obstacles to employment so every American has the chance to develop their skills and make their unique mark on the world we share.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim October 2015 as National Disability Employment Awareness Month. I urge all Americans to embrace the talents and skills that individuals with disabilities bring to our workplaces and communities and to promote the right to equal employment opportunity for all people.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirtieth day of September, in the year of our Lord two thousand fifteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and fortieth.


MRC Industries, Inc. Job Posting: Director of Community Employment

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State Legislation to Provide New Opportunities for People with Disabilities in Mississippi

The Mississippi House and Senate adopted House Bill 836 on March 31, which will provide new opportunities for people with disabilities to work in an integrated community setting at competitive wages at or above minimum wage.

Collaborative efforts with The Arc of Mississippi and The Mississippi Chapter of the Association of People Supporting Employment First (APSE) facilitated passage of House Bill 836. The bill will become law once signed by Gov. Phil Bryant.

"This legislation is the first step in a process. We are excited about our collective success with the passage of this bill. We are equally enthusiastic and look forward to the next steps in implementing a system where all people are supported to be all they can be," said Jennifer Fulcher, President of the Mississippi Chapter of APSE, a national nonprofit dedicated to advancing the inclusion of people with disabilities in the workplace and the community.

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Action Alert from National APSE

Dear APSE Members,

This Friday, June 21st, NBC?s ?Rock Center with Brian Williams? will be airing a special interview on the use of the special minimum wage certificate. The show airs at 10 pm EST. It is our hope that the Rock Center presents a balanced story about the use of Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, which allows employers to apply for federal waivers to pay workers with disabilities less than minimum wage.

As you are aware, APSE has issued a call to phase out the use of sub-minimum wage by 2014. APSE recognizes the importance of undertaking such action in a way that is carefully thought out, and leads to movement of individuals currently being paid sub-minimum wage into individual, integrated employment opportunities paying minimum wage or higher, and avoiding unintended consequences that would not only damage efforts to expand community employment, but result in actual loss of rights and opportunities for individuals with disabilities to full integration and inclusion in society. We believe this national systems change movement should be based on the principle that employment in the community be the first or preferred service option for service recipients ?i.e., Employment First.

We believe that section 14(c) sets low expectations and encourages a misguided sense of the capacities of individuals with disabilities, who could succeed in integrated work settings with the appropriate assistance and supports. Current research-based best practice indicates that the vast majority of individuals with disabilities who want to work can be found a competitive position at regular wages through the use of customized and supported employment strategies. Sub-minimum wage is at odds with national disability policy (particularly the Americans with Disabilities Act and IDEA), which have made it clear that public policies should view disability as a natural part of human experience that in no way limits a person?s right to fully participate in all aspects of life.

It is very important that we share stories and have as much support and awareness from our community and members as possible! We hope you and your friends, family and colleagues will tune in to watch this special interview this Friday at 10 pm EST!!!

Thank you,
Laura Owens
Ryley Newport

Service Animals

Often businesses such as stores, restaurants, hotels, or theaters have policies that can exclude people with disabilities. For example, a "no pets" policy may result in staff excluding people with disabilities who use dogs as service animals. A clear policy permitting service animals can help ensure that staff are aware of their obligation to allow access to customers using service animals. Under the ADA's revised regulations, the definition of "service animal" is limited to a dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability. The task(s) performed by the dog must be directly related to the person's disability. For example, many people who are blind or have low vision use dogs to guide and assist them with orientation. Many individuals who are deaf use dogs to alert them to sounds. People with mobility disabilities often use dogs to pull their wheelchairs or retrieve items. People with epilepsy may use a dog to warn them of an imminent seizure, and individuals with psychiatric disabilities may use a dog to remind them to take medication. Service members returning from war with new disabilities are increasingly using service animals to assist them with activities of daily living as they reenter civilian life. Under the ADA, "comfort," "therapy," or "emotional support animals" do not meet the definition of a service animal.

Under the ADA, service animals must be harnessed, leashed, or tethered, unless these devices interfere with the service animal's work or the individual's disability prevents him from using these devices. Individuals who cannot use such devices must maintain control of the animal through voice, signal, or other effective controls. Businesses may exclude service animals only if 1) the dog is out of control and the handler cannot or does not regain control; or 2) the dog is not housebroken. If a service animal is excluded, the individual must be allowed to enter the business without the service animal.

In situations where it is not apparent that the dog is a service animal, a business may ask only two questions: 1) is the animal required because of a disability; and 2) what work or task has the animal been trained to perform? No other inquiries about an individual's disability or the dog are permitted. Businesses cannot require proof of certification or medical documentation as a condition for entry.

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Avoiding the Tyranny of Low Expectations: Employment Support for People with a Mental Illness

Check out the Ticket to Work program's most recent blog on its website! Authored by Mr. Dan O'Brien, Deputy Associate Commissioner for Employment Support, in honor of Mental Health Awareness Month. Mr. O'Brien shares his thoughts on the challenges and opportunities individuals who have a mental illness face in finding employment.

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Eeo Diversity & Inclusion and Disabilities Awareness/Employment Training Symposium

Please visit for the latest information on the forthcoming EEO Diversity & Inclusion and Disabilties Awareness/employment Training Symposium on June 6 at Martin's West in Baltimore. Register now to ensure seating which is limited to 250.

May 2012: Job Development in Tough Times? What Should I Do Now?

Over the past several years we've all been faced with a weak economy, both nationally and locally. For Job Developers these times have been very challenging indeed. Jobs are scarce; Employers are reluctant to hire; Job seekers become pessimistic; Everyone wonders—"What should I do now?"

This month we offer the "wisdom of what works." We believe that those who are successful in hard times ultimately rely on 2 factors. Read on...

First is Persistence. Perhaps Ray Kroc, founder of McDonald's restaurants said it best: "Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful individuals with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent." Quite simply; You can't win if you don't get out there and play the game!

Hank Aaron, who many believe was the best hitter in baseball, said: "My motto was always to keep on swinging. Whether I was in a slump or feeling badly or having trouble off the field, the only thing to do was keep swinging."

The first factor in winning during tough times to keep at it! Persistence!

What's the second key factor used by those who succeed when the going is tough? Stay with the basics. Do what works! Sure, you may need to add a few new strategies. You may need to stretch outside the ole comfort zone and try some new approaches. But remember, there are tried and true methods that work. Check your game. Are you staying sharp on the basics? Have you mastered the fundamentals? Are you giving your best in using the solid basic proven strategies?

This month we offer 5 articles that discuss "Job Development in Tough Times." We hope these will support you in rechecking yourself to ensure you're good at the fundamentals? And to remember that "Energy and Persistence Conquer all Things!" (That advice is courtesy of Ben Franklin.)

Sheltered Workshops Offer Little Benefit, Studies Find

The "disabilityscoop" online newsletter reports two new studies. In both cases, researchers found that people who spent time in sheltered workshops were no more likely to be employed, but earned less and were more costly to support than their peers who did not start out in segregated environments. The implications of the findings are significant. To quote the article: "Participating in sheltered workshops diminished the future outcomes achieved once individuals became competitively employed."

Currently more than a half million Americans with mental and physical disabilities work in some 7,000 sheltered workshops across the country.

Read the Article

Get the FACTS! "Disability Benefits 101: Working with a Disability in Michigan" Now Available

Disability Benefits 101 gives you tools and information on employment, health coverage, and benefits. You can plan ahead and learn how work and benefits go together. The DB101 online Benefits Planning Calculators help you get ready for a change in work or benefits, or learn how benefits rules might apply to each unique employment situation. No more guessing! Use the calculator for exact information.

Visit the Website

MIAPSE Connects You to Tools You Can Use

See our LINKS tab for the latest in up-to-date resources to support excellence in practice. In February 2012 we add a link to the new Improving Michigan Practices web site. The site provides information on a variety of evidence-based practices. Visit us often for up-to-date resources selected to support excellence in practice.

Visit the Website

Free Online Learning Opportunity Creating Community Careers

On Tuesday, November 1, 2011 the Michigan Association of Rehabilitation Organizations announced a free online learning opportunity. The course will focus on Customized and Self Employment. You're Invited!

The Creating Community Careers courses are designed for those involved in employment development for people with disabilities, people recovering from mental illness or substance abuse and others who have challenges beyond just being unemployed.

Part 1: Intro to Customized Employment (approx 2.5 hrs)
Part 2: Discovering Personal Genius (approx. 4.5 hrs)
Part 3: Customized Job Development (approx. 4 hrs)

This opportunity is funded under the Michigan Medicaid Infrastructure Grant Award Number: 1QACMS030532/01 from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services received by the Michigan Department of Community Health. To Enroll contact Todd Culver at

Read the Announcement

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month

President Barack Obama has declared October 2011 to be National Disability Employment Awareness Month. In the text of the declaration the President noted; "To win the future, we must harness the power of our Nation's richest resource—our people. Americans with disabilities, like all Americans, are entitled to not only full participation in our society, but also full opportunity in our society. Their talents and contributions are vital to the strength of our Nation's workforce and our future prosperity."

Read the Complete Declaration

Employment – Bill to Phase Out Special Wage Certificates Introduced

Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL) and Rep. Timothy Bishop (D-NY) introduced H.R. 3086, the Fair Wages for Workers with Disabilities Act of 2011. The bill seeks to immediately end issuance of new special wage certificates for workers with disabilities under Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act, and to phase out existing certificates over a 3 year period. The bill was referred to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, which has scheduled no action on the bill. There is no companion bill in the Senate.

Read H.R. 3086

"StateData" - A Key Resource for Administrators, Policy Makers and Practitioners of Supported Employment

StateData: The National Report on Employment Services and Outcomes is published by the Institute for Community Inclusion (ICI) and the University of Massachusetts Boston.

For the past 20 years, the ICI's Access to Integrated Employment Project, the national data-collection project on day and employment outcomes, has described the nature of day and employment services for individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDD). The intent is to contribute to a comprehensive understanding of the factors that influence employment outcomes at an individual, service provider, and state policy level.

The 2011 report (link below) provides information and analysis covering a 20-year period. It is based on information gathered from several existing national datasets that address the status of employment and economic self-sufficiency for individuals with IDD.

The report provides detailed analysis and commentary as well as a set of recommendations for effective employment options and services that support individual choice. "StateData" –is a key resource for administrators, policy makers and practitioners seeking to improve access to employment for persons with IDD.

Download the full PDF version here

Highlights from the 2011 APSE conference
"People and Possibilities–The Employment Summit" (Cadillac, May 19-20)

Thanks to all who attended. You helped make this a great event!

  • Al Condeluci: Wow! What a great speaker...and delightful guy! Here's his PowerPoint presentation on Social Capital and A New Paradigm
  • Enhancing Employment Outcomes: PowerPoint presentation by Bill Colombo and the MRS team. Many thanks to the MRS team. They're certainly an impressive bunch!
  • Deborah Nale, Certified Business Consultant and Micro-Business Specialist offered an exciting presentation on new resources to support Michigan Micro-enterprises. These were created through Michigan's Medicaid Infrastructure Grant. Check out these wonderful resources! (see below)

Deb provides the following note:


Thank you for your interest in Micro Enterprise and the Momentum building in Michigan!

As you may know, we have our new statewide Micro Enterprise Website at, where your micro entrepreneurs can advertise their product or service businesses now and where you will find a myriad of support Resources!

We also have a companion Facebook Business Page, if you are able to, be sure to "LIKE" us at for information and educational articles. Good stuff!

Below are some vital Micro Enterprise links to save:

Feel free to email me with any other questions on micro business resources. Watch for More Micro-enterprise News as the Momentum grows!

Thank you!
Deborah Nale

Michigan Updates: A Social Security Newsletter on Employment Support Updates

Download the Michigan Updates

Employers of the Year: Kalamazoo organization recognizes two companies for hiring people with disabilities

KALAMAZOO — Brian Merica believes that employing people who are mentally ill can help them be more active in the community and also prove that they can be good workers. More...

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New Brief Examines the Role of Job Developers During the Job Search

The Influential Role of the Job Developer: Increasing Self-Determination and Family Involvement During the Job Search

A new Research to Practice Brief analyzes how job developers influence decision-making during the job search and placement process. As part of a study exploring the employment decisions of people with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities (IDD), researchers interviewed 16 individuals with IDD, their family members, and professionals involved in their job search.

Major findings showed that the job developer affects not only the actual job outcome, but also the individual' s job choices. The influence of the job developer also impacts the involvement of family and other supports in the job-placement process. This brief illustrates ways in which the job developer influences the placement process, and offers strategies for maximizing self-determination and family involvement.

Download the brief

January 2011 Disability Employment Statistics Released

In January 2011, the percentage of people with disabilities in the labor force was 20.1. By comparison, the percentage of persons with no disability in the labor force was 69.5.

Click here for ODEP News Brief

National Disability Rights Network Calls for Elimination of Sub-Minimum Wage

In the fall of 2009, the Executive Board of APSE issued a statement calling for the phase out of sub-minimum wage by 2014. We would like to applaud the National Disability Rights Network, for its support of this effort with its just released report calling for the end of sub-minimum wage.

This report, "Segregated and Exploited: The Failure of the Disability Service System to Provide Quality Work" calls for:

  • Ending segregated employment and the sub-minimum wage by restricting all federal and state money that is spent on employers who segregate employees with disabilities from the general workforce.
  • Strengthening current and create new tax incentives for employers to hire people with disabilities in integrated workplaces at comparable wages.
  • Increasing labor protections and enforcement of existing law.

APSE Statement on Employment First

The concept of "Employment First" is one that has gained attention over the past few years in terms of services and supports for individuals with disabilities. In an effort to ensure that this concept is utilized and applied in a consistent fashion, APSE's National Executive Board has approved a Statement on Employment First. This statement outlines both the underlying principles and characteristics of successful implementation of Employment First.

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