Workforce Investment Act Briefing Sheet

"Individuals with disabilities continually encounter various forms of discrimination, including outright intentional exclusion, the discriminatory effects of architectural, transportation, and communication barriers, overprotective rules and policies, failure to make modifications to existing facilities and practices, exclusionary qualification standards and criteria, segregation, and relegation to lesser services, programs, activities, benefits, jobs, or other opportunities."

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (PL 101-336).

Reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act Must Adhere to the Principles of the Americans with Disabilities Act

The American Psychological Association believes that reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) must adequately address the employment needs of individuals with disabilities. Individuals with disabilities experience the highest unemployment rate of any group in the United States. Vocational rehabilitation (VR), which annually assists 1.2 million individuals with disabilities find long-term, competitive employment, is the primary federally funded employment and training program specifically designed to assist individuals with disabilities overcome employment challenges. Despite the success of vocational rehabilitation, the number of disabled persons receiving these services has decreased in recent years, due to inadequate funding. The only increases in funding allotted to VR programs within the past six years have been that which was statutorily mandated by the consumer price index.

Although the inclusion of VR in Title IV of WIA in 1998 was consistent with the principles of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), VR has maintained the primary financial burden for making One-Stop centers and programs accessible to individuals with disabilities. Due to inadequate resources within WIA, significant barriers and challenges to employment opportunities, job training, and resources for individuals with disabilities exist in the One-Stop system.

  • The majority of One-Stop career centers do not offer comprehensive services that specifically address the needs of individuals with physical, mental, sensory, and cognitive disabilities, such as assistive technology services and devices, work support groups, interpreters, readers, and the dissemination of information in alternative formats, such as Braille, large print, and on disk.

  • There is a lack of appropriately trained individuals in the One-Stop system to address the special needs of individuals' disabilities in job training and placement, and to effectively implement the comprehensive services mentioned above.

  • The performance accountability system fosters reluctance on the part of One-Stop administrators to provide services to individuals with disabilities due to the fact that the multiple barriers to employment faced by this population requires increased resources.

Comprehensive VR Services

Research has found that comprehensive VR services enhance employment outcomes of individuals with disabilities:

  • Providing Job Training Services to Employees with Disabilities Increases Long-term Job Placement and Satisfaction: Providing career services, job training, and training in assistive technology prior to starting a job increases the likelihood that individuals with disabilities will maintain employment over a longer period of time and will be placed in jobs that are a good match for their skills.

Research has found that a program that combines person-centered career plans, supported employment, and assistive technology assessment and training to facilitate the employment of individuals with disabilities ranging in age from 17 to 55 years was successful in helping individuals with severe physical disabilities maintain employment.

  • Vocational Rehabilitation Programs Provide Services to Individuals with a Variety of Disabilities: Programs that foster the psychiatric and vocational rehabilitation of individuals with serious mental disorders range in their strategies, but have been successful in placing individuals back into the community and into partial employment.

  • Innovative Approaches to Job Training in Vocational Rehabilitation Settings Have Found Positive Results: A recent study of Work Support Groups, which emphasize teamwork and peer support and include persons with physical and mental disabilities, found that those individuals who attended most group sessions were more likely to find employment.

  • All of The Above Services Should be Implemented by Trained Professionals: Providing specialized job training; assistive technology training, and leading Work Support Groups necessitates a knowledge of, and expertise within, the area of counseling individuals with disabilities.

Support

To support the inclusion of individuals with disabilities in community life, as required by the Supreme Court's Olmstead decision and the Bush administration's New Freedom Initiative, the WIA reauthorization must:

  • Establish a separate funding stream for One-Stop center infrastructure development and maintenance and require that a portion of these funds be used to make One-Stops centers appropriate to the needs of individuals with disabilities.

  • Require all One-Stop centers to routinely offer comprehensive services that specifically address the needs of individuals with physical, mental, sensory, and cognitive disabilities.

  • Assure that One-Stop center staff are appropriately trained in the delivery of employment training and services to individuals with disabilities.

  • Require that Local Workforce Investment Boards include members who are individuals with disabilities and individuals who belong to organizations representing individuals with disabilities.

  • Require that State Workforce Investment Boards reserve a voting seat for both the State VR Director and the Director of the State Agency for the Blind (in those states that have one).

  • Change the performance accountability system so that One-Stop administrators can better address the multiple barriers to employment faced by individuals with disabilities.

References

Herdelin, A.C. & Scott, D.L., (1999). Experimental studies in the Program of Assertive Community Treatment (PACT). Journal of Disability Policy Studies, 10(1), 53-89.

Inge, K.; Strobel, W.; Wehman, P.; Todd, J., & Targett, P., (2000). Vocational outcomes for persons with severe physical disabilities: Design and implementation of workplace supports. Neurorehabilitation, 15(2), 175-187.

Ingraham, K.; Rahimi, M.; Tsang, H.; Chan, F., & Oulvey, E., (2001). Work support groups in state vocational rehabilitation agency settings: A case study. Psychiatric Rehabilitation Skills, 5(1), 6-21.

Langton, A.J. & Ramseur, H., (2001). Enhancing employment outcomes through job accommodation and assistive technology resources and services. Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation, 16(1), 27-37.

Luft, P.; Rumrill, P.; Snyder, J., & Hennessey, M., (2001). Transition strategies for youths with sensory impairments: Educational, vocational, and independent living situations. Work, 17(2), 125-134.

McGurrin, M.C., (1994). An overview of the effectiveness of traditional vocational rehabilitation services in the treatment of long-term mental illness. Psychosocial Rehabilitation Journal, 17(3), 37-54.