Raising Expectations for U.S. Youth with Disabilities: Federal Disability Policy Advances Integrated Employment

  • Jeanne Novak
Keywords: equal opportunity, integrated employment, presumption of employability, secondary transition, social model of disability

Abstract

While conversations around the inclusion of individuals with disabilities often focus on the educational rights and needs of children with disabilities during their school years, there is a growing recognition that the period of transition from secondary school to adult roles is a critical time in the lives of individuals with disabilities. For young people, gaining meaningful
employment in a typical community job is an important step towards realising full community membership. The present article examines how contemporary U.S. federal disability policy has heightened expectations that youth with disabilities – including those with significant disabilities – can and should be prepared to work in integrated workplaces. The article begins with a consideration of how evolving assumptions about the nature of disability and the employment potential of individuals with significant disabilities have influenced the development of federal disability policy in the U.S. This is followed by an overview of key legislative and policy developments in the areas of civil rights and workforce development that have
the potential to dramatically impact the employment outlook for young people with disabilities. The article concludes with a discussion of challenges in translating the legislative intent of federal disability policy into noticeable improvements in employment outcomes, along with recommendations for aligning legislation, funding priorities and service delivery systems to achieve policy goals.

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Published
2015-03-31